Jul 12, 2009

Living to Tell the Tale

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Marquez, in a high school literature class. It was a serious struggle. Most kids I knew hated the book. I found it nearly incomprehensible. I couldn't keep track of the myriad characters (often with duplicate names) but the fantastical, dreamlike events intrigued me. I had a similar experience with this book. Living to Tell the Tale is Marquez' memoir of his childhood, and reading it you realize just how much his novels draw on incidents and people he knew in real life. Of course, I only recognized things I'd come across in Hundred Years of Solitude, but I know there are echoes of Love in the Time of Cholera and other works here. It was kind of thrilling to recognize bits and pieces, even though it's been at least ten years since I read the novel, and I don't remember it very clearly. But even so, Living to Tell the Tale could not keep my interest. It jumps back and forth in time (always something I find distracting) not only between Marquez' adult life and his childhood, but also in telling about his parents' love story, his grandparents' lives, etc. Myriad relatives, friends, fellow villagers, etc fill the pages with curious events and wonderful descriptions, but all in a puzzling whirl. I tried to let go of my desire to hold onto a thread, or pay attention to who all the people were, and just bounce along the top of the words, taking in each moment that was presented to me- but it all became a muddle too soon and I couldn't follow any longer. Maybe my attention is just lax, maybe I'm just not into complex books anymore- after all, I doubt I would have ever initially made it through One Hundred Years of Solitude without a teacher's guidance. So while I stopped reading this memoir on page 80, I have to say it's just my lack of appreciation. It feels like a fantastic book. If you're a fan of Marquez, if you've loved any one of his novels, I would urge you to read this one. You will likely find a treasure and delight, where I just encountered headaches.

Abandoned ... 0/5 ... 533 pages, 2003

More opinions at:
Gossamer Obsessions
anyone else?

8 comments:

Nymeth said...

Sorry to hear this one didn't work for you! I have it on my tbr pile, but since I did love his novels hopefully I'll enjoy it too.

bermudaonion said...

Thanks for the review. I think I'll skip this one, since I don't like to work too hard when I'm reading.

An Anonymous Child said...

Interesting. I thought "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was absolutely brilliant and am looking forward to "Love in the Time of Cholera" (or any other book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I'll encounter in the meantime). Your review actually very much makes me want to read "Living to Tell the Tale" even more. It seems like it might not be an easy read, but I'm certainly looking forward to it.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I loved Love In The Time of Cholera! He's such a talented author.

Jeane said...

Nymeth- I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it.

Bermudaonion- Me, either, I've been finding out of late!

Anonymous Child- I think you are exactly the person who would love this book. I'm glad my musings on why I didn't like it, have recommended it to you!

ANovelMenagerie- It's one I haven't read. I wonder if I'd like it better than Hundred Years. But I'm not sure I'm going to try...

Janet said...

A very fair review.

I'm not usually a big fan of stream of consciousness novels either. I know they're supposed to mirror the way our minds work, but I'd rather read something that's sorted things out into a better order than my mind usually has!

Jeane said...

Janet- I feel the same way. I like to read books that are a bit more organized than the inside of my head!

Trish said...

I wonder if a book like this would be easier to "swallow" with more familiarity with the works talked about? I know when I did reading for school I always had a tougher time with books that discussed things I wasn't familiar with. Who knows. Marquez isn't very readable for me either. I've only read One Hundred Years but I had to print off a family tree from Wikipedia for easy reference. How many Aurelianos (or whatever) do you need??