[Book Review] Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

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There had never been a death so foretold.

So this was my first Gabo book and I’m stumped. I’m not quite sure what to make of this strange, haunting little book. I don’t often enjoy reading stories that you can find on Sparknotes. They’re just too… academic for me? Does that sound bad? I’m not a fan of literary ambiguity…

It was intriguing and thought-provoking, but not what I’d call an enjoyable read. It’s only 120 pages long, but took me almost two weeks to finish…

The writing is very much like that of a journalist. It’s narrated by an anonymous man returning to a Columbian town where a baffling murder took place 27 years earlier, who is determined to get to the bottom of the story. The narrative outlines the events surrounding the murder of Santiago Nasar, a young man who is thought to have taken the virginity of Angela Vicario.

On the eve of her wedding night, Angela Vicario is returned to her house when her husband, Bayardo San Roman, discovers she is not a virgin. When asked who, Angela tells her twin brothers, Pedro and Pablo Vicario, it was Santiago Nasar. To restore their sister’s honor (is that you Zuko?), the twins find Santiago and kill him.

What is most interesting: despite everyone in town knowing that Santiago Nasar is to be murdered, most people make no attempts to intervene, either because they thought it a rumor or a bluff, or see the murder as justifiable punishment for Nasar’s taking of Angela Vicario’s virginity (a detail that we later discover is not actually confirmed to be true). Is the society just as guilty as the twins for the murder of Santiago Nasar?

The story sounds super intriguing, yes? Well… I thought it rather boring. The plot is very non-linear and I felt as though the first three-quarters of it plodded along. Because the story is comprised of various points of view retelling the events leading up to the murder, it was as though the falling action actually preceded the climax.

But I will say that the characterization was brilliant, even though I often got all the names muddled up. Trying to discern each character’s motivations made the book much more intriguing for me, I think. Especially Angela Vicario’s character. I really didn’t get her. She was so nonchalant about the whole thing, having Santiago Nasar’s blood on her hands. But the same goes for the twins, Pablo and Pedro, who remained adamant in their belief that Nasar’s murder was justified.

The book also provides a very interesting look into traditional Latin American society, the importance of honor, and the role women played in 1950’s Columbia. Here’s a quote:

The brothers were brought up to be men. The girls were brought up to be married. They knew how to do screen embroidery, sew by machine, weave bone lace, wash and iron, make artificial flowers and fancy candy, and write engagement announcements… my mother thought there were no better-reared daughters. ‘They’re perfect,’ she was frequently heard to say. ‘Any man will be happy with them because they’ve been raised to suffer.’

My Rating: ★★★✩✩

It’s a good book, with quality writing and an intriguing premise, but it didn’t really do it for me.

Happy reading from me to you,

Rebecca xx

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