I borrowed One Hundred Years of Solitude from a friend in my book group who loved it. It is considered a modern classic South American novel, and the version I was reading had been translated into English by Gregory Rabassa.
The Big Idea behind the book is good, that there is a fictional settlement (Macondo) in the South American jungle which death has not yet found. The original settlers divided the land up completely fairly and live peaceful lives isolated from the outside world. The plot focuses on one family who found the location for the settlement and originally were the central figures in the community.
Through the book those characters who remain in Macondo do not die except as is foretold, but the outside world begins to intrude on this utopia, bringing new technologies, “justice” and civil war in its wake. The message of the book seems to be of the futility of human life and how no matter how we try to change things our individual lives make no difference. This is empathised by the repetition in the names, even when this is not immediately hereditary.
The family tree provided in the front of the book was essential for keeping track of who was who throughout the book. With the main focus being on family life the strong characters in the book were the women, especially the long-lived Ursula who was the constant matriarch driving the family and keeping everything together through the difficulties faced by Macondo. This was surprising in a book based in the patriarchal Latin America. The “fringe” characters outside the family also provided some much needed colour and variety to the setting and added interest as well as advancing the plot.
I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend this book, but think it had an interesting message and will make for good discussion at the next book group.