Paper Views: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Finally it’s this time again, school is out of the way and I can finally get round to making my way through the towering pile of books on my windowsill that I’ve been staring at longingly for months. Top of my list, and the book I instantly grabbed when we left for 12 days in sunny southern France the week before last, was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. This was recommended to me by my English Lit teacher as one of her favourite books, which is pretty high praise so I was unsurprisingly very excited to start it.

To give a quick overview of the plot, it is set in Macondo, Colombia, and follows the lives of seven generations of the Buendía family (who have an extremely confusing liking for using the same four names in many similar variations). The book was written in 1967 and was a big part of the Latin American literary “boom” of the time, which makes in utterly unlike anything I’ve ever read which I guess was part of the reason I was so intrigued to read it. Without giving too much of the story away, it cleverly uses references to real events at the time, such as the political atmosphere, but goes further to really understand the depths of the microcosm that is Macondo and all its inhabitants in a style that can be best defined as magic realism. 

If I’m going to be honest, by the time I was a good two hundred pages in (the whole novel weighs in at a hefty four hundred and twenty-two in total), I was getting a bit.. bored isn’t the right word, but I was starting to feel like the book could have ended right there and I wouldn’t have minded- I guess I just felt like the story was being dragged out longer than necessary. However, being the kind of person that can NEVER leave a book half read, I lay back on my towel, put back on my shades and powered on through til the end- and oh boy am I glad I did. You know when you reach the end of a book and you just kind of sit there for a minute and smile to yourself that it’s a good ‘un… so to all the times I grumbled about how I just wanted to finish it already I’m sorry Márquez, I take it back!

It’s part of the Penguin Modern Classics range, and I can’t think of a book more worthy- it’s different to everything I’ve ever read and I would definitely recommend it. Although not your typical read- with more than a fair share of death, incest and prostitution- it’s a novel that I have no doubts will stand the test of time and is certainly worth adding to your book list.

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Paper Views: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

I’ve been writing these reviews for a few weeks now, so I thought it was about time to tell you about probably my favourite book of all time- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskindy. This was a book that was recommended by my English teacher who raved about it so much that I just had to go out and read it for myself… and let’s just say I was blown away.

Without going into the plot in too much detail, the novel is set in eighteenth century France and centres around the unusual (to put it mildly) character of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is born and promptly abandoned, left as a newborn on the streets of Paris. The book takes no time at all with introducing the abnormal atmosphere around which this odd tale is constructed, with the introduction of the key theme: smell. Jean-Baptiste, known better as Grenouille, is a child born without a scent, yet with the keenest nose in existence nonetheless- something that is the cause of great unease from everyone he meets, meaning that his childhood was spent being passed around between carers. That is, however, until he finds himself working as an apprentice for Baldini, a master perfumer in Paris. By this point it is apparent that Grenouille has an unusually twisted relationship with scents, which proves to be almost perverse when he hunts down a particularly beautiful scent of a young girl, who later ends up as his first of many murders.

I feel like I’ve already given a lot of the plot away, but that’s only the first part of the book so definitely go read it to find out the ending, especially because I feel like I’ve severely depreciated the genius of this intricate plot! Seriously though, I think it’s an injustice that not everyone has heard of this novel; creating something this unique and thought provoking is pretty unusual in this day and age (this was actually written in the 80s) so  I personally believe we should grab every opportunity we find. So although it may not be the happiest story line and “not my kind of thing”, in the words of Rainbow Rowell, “art isn’t supposed to look nice, it’s supposed to make you feel something”. Which is exactly what this book does.