Book Review: Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

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September 16, 2016
I have a complicated relationship with Gabriel García Márquez. Complicated as in I always hated the man because my high school teachers thought it was acceptable to make me put down books that I actually wanted to read to read his bibliography instead. And then they would test us on it, as if the reading part wasn’t torture enough!

I remember buying Of Love and Other Demons in 10th grade. I remember we had to pair up for the test. I remember the brilliant idea that my friend and I had to tackle that monster of a novel that wasn’t even 200 pages long: we would each read half! I’d read the first half, she’d read the rest and we’d both ace that test! Easy.

It didn’t quite work. My hatred deepened.

Fast forward a long (long, long… I am old) time and here I am, bemoaning the fact that I never gave Latin American authors a chance. I really haven’t been kind to my people and it’s a shame because if I don’t, how could I expect others to do it? So I decided to start with the bane of my teenage existence, and you know what? Teenage me was an idiot. Gabriel García Márquez is magical and I am so here for it!

Chronicle of a Death Foretold tells the story of a man who’s going to be murdered and, unlike everyone else in town, he has no idea. After being returned to her family hours after her wedding, Angela Vicario confesses that she had actually lost her virginity way back to another man in town, Santiago Nasar. In a rage, her brothers, twins Pablo and Pedro Vicario, rush to get their knives and go into town announcing their intentions to kill Santiago in defense of their sister’s honor. 27 years later, one of Santiago’s old friends returns to the town determined to get to the bottom and make sense of the baffling murder, because if everyone knew what was going to happen, why did no one intervene to stop it?

This book reminds me a tiny little bit of The Virgin Suicides in the way that from the title alone you know what’s gonna happen, leaving the author with the great task of keeping you interested and engaged long enough to find out the hows and the whys. Where the death of the Lisbon girls differs from the death of Santiago Nasar is that the hows and whys are already known in this novella. They were so widely known, in fact, that the murder shouldn’t have happened at all, and yet…

I finished this book feeling sad and frustrated over a fictional character’s death that was so preventable, yet no one did anything to stop it. García Márquez explores a very curious affliction that plagues our society and that we have all been guilty of at some point or another: inaction. Most of the town knew what the Vicario twins were planning to do but no one told the victim; whether it was because they thought the twins were bluffing, they didn’t like him and wouldn’t care if he died, or simply because they thought, for sure, someone else had already warned him, no one felt the need to make sure he knew, and quite frankly, that’s because they didn’t care; it wouldn’t affect them personally so it wasn’t important, and what if they didn’t do anything? Someone else probably would!

Yeah, not quite. Bystander effect. Google it.

Besides making me feel terrible on behalf of all human beings who have had a chance to speak up and act and haven’t, I have nothing bad to say about this book. From the plot, to the characters, to the narrative, Chronicle of a Death Foretold was perfect from start to finish and made me realize how wrong I was to think reading Gabriel García Márquez was torture.

I particularly enjoyed the way he chose to tell this story in a non-chronological order and from numerous points of view as the narrator goes around town asking questions and trying to unearth the truth. Whether he succeeds or not is entirely subjective, but it does give us the opportunity to bring this town and its inhabitants to life. The more I read, the more it felt like I was there in the middle of it all-- looking out the window next to Santiago’s mom and witnessing the awful events--and that I knew these people, could picture them just as vividly as recalling an old classmate or a neighbor. He is such a powerful storyteller! And there’s no better proof of that than when he shocks you with an ending you have seen coming since the very first page. The last scene alone cemented this book as a lifetime favorite and I will forever regret not picking up one of his books sooner!

So, don’t be a dummy like my teenage self. If you have yet to read Gabriel García Márquez, I 100% recommend Chronicle of a Death Foretold. If you have, then I don’t have to convince you to pick this one up (if you haven’t already!). Now if y’all excuse me, I have a copy of Love and Other Demons waiting for me on my bedside table. I hope to make my 10th grade teacher proud once I read that second half!

2 comments on "Book Review: Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez"
  1. I remember picking up a Marquez book when I was 14-16 and getting extremely bored after a few pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I haven't picked any of his others since, but a novella sounds like a good start! Your review definitely sold me on it anyway!


    1. I really can't speak on behalf of his entire bibliography, but personally, picking this short one (not even 150 pages long!) was a good starting point! I hope it doesn't go downhill from here, but so far I haven't been disappointed! If you pick it up, let me know what you think!


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