It’s official – summer has arrived. And with it, my annual summer reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This will be the 17th (!! time flies!!) year in a row that I have poured over every page of this novel since my first introduction to it during a college literature class on magical realism. My husband thinks it’s a bit weird (ok, truthfully, he thinks it borders on mental illness) that I could re-read a book with such frequency, but I can only argue that with a novel this intense, you continually peel back layers and discover something new with each reading. I love the idea that a novel can grow with you throughout life.
Reading it in my early twenties, I marvelled at the moment when Remedios the Beauty rose up and disappeared into the sky -reminding me of that Husker Du line “she lifted her arms and she floated away…” As a young woman, the idea of a life lived so free of constraint and care was something to really savour, imagining the possibilities and consequences. Scrawled throughout the margins are dozens of notes, the ones in red stemming back to my first reading, and reflecting the thoughts and reactions of a young woman deeply engrossed in burgeoning feminist idealisms (much thanks to my “women’s studies” bender in college), horrified at the treatment of women at the time and the expectations that were placed on them as wives and mothers. Mixed with them are pages covered with scribbling from when my oldest daughter got hold of the book and pretended to by like mommy, taking notes in the margins.
Reading it now, the wife and mother in me looks at Ursula, the family matriarch, in all of her wisdom and faults. I could only dream of being as industrious and logical as she is- maintaining her household and family stoically throughout years of turmoil. She lives for over one-hundred years, her final moments spent in prayer and giving advice on how best to run the household. I imagine that hers is a home uncluttered, everything in its place and everything serving a purpose. Not that Ursula herself is without fault- as I am beginning to realize is true of us all. Sure, she is the stalwart, the icon, the woman who at one point takes over and handles the entire village on her own, but she can be blind to her children- blind to their needs and their faults. I won’t even get in to the part about her leaving her husband tied to a tree in the yard for years…
As I read it, I wonder how I will view it in the future, when I too have a legacy of extended family behind me and a history to look back upon. What notes will I scrawl in the margins then?
A book that can grow with you, that you can grow up with.