I'm going to be honest, friends: this book was MAJOR struggle bus territory for me. M.A.J.O.R. And really, I should have known that going in. Not long after I first published my Classics Club list, a friend emailed me to warn me about this book, and to emphasise the need to read it in physical form so that you could easily flip to the family tree five million times while reading. And hooooooooo boy, was he right.
This book tells the story of one family living in a small town in rural South America over several generations and one hundred years. It's part epic history, part magical realism, and it's a story told completely without dialogue.
It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that one minute, it felt like historical fiction and the next, there'd be a plague of insomnia and no one in town would sleep for years, or a character would come back from the dead, or it would rain non-stop for months and yet nothing would flood, or a character would suddenly get blown away with the wind while pegging out the washing. In short, it was bizarre.
But ultimately, the magical realism elements were the least of my problems with this book. The lack of dialogue made it a very slow read for me. And that family tree moved completely invaluable, because every generation of characters has THE EXACT SAME NAMES as the generation before it, and it's impossible to keep track of the characters. Especially when one of the Aurelianos ends up having seventeen sons with seventeen different women, and ALL SEVENTEEN OF THEM are named Aureliano. Seriously.
Add in the fact that it features grown men falling in love with pre-teen girls and waiting for them to reach puberty before insisting on marriage, and aunts ending up in sexual relationships with their nephews, and it really wasn't an easy book to read. Or an enjoyable book a lot of the time.
There's essentially no plot a lot of the time - it's just a long rambling history. And while the writing was often beautiful - and don't get me wrong, there really were some BEAUTIFUL moments - there just wasn't sufficient payoff for me to find this book anything but a struggle.
Have you read it? What did you think??