Chronicle of a Death Foretold

I read this short novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in one afternoon. From the first line it had me: “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.” Already, so many questions!

I started Chronicle of a Death Foretold on the lawn, in the dappled warmth at the edge of one of the shadier trees in the garden. I read about Santiago Nasar, about the wedding of Bayardo San Roman, about the reluctant manliness of the twin brothers Pedro and Pablo’s avenging of their sister’s honour with well-worn pig knives, and of the town’s collective knowledge and non-intervention.

Then, when the sun went in and the air took on the cool, moist edge which in Somerset means rain coming, I went up to the roof of the house to finish it (largely for a change of scene, but also to be closer to the indoors in case of a sudden downpour). I have a spot up there I like, where the sun warms the lead and you can look out at the orchard and lime trees of the surrounding countryside and hear the shifting of the wind.

Up on the roof the cowl of one of the chimney spinners has been dented so it now turns with an occasional rasping of metal on stone. This produced a peculiarly ominous soundtrack for the second half of the novel, mirroring as it did the sound of the brothers’ pig knives being sharpened in preparation for murder.

None of what happens in the novel is especially ‘a secret’, and yet the working out of these events in the different stories reported to the central narrator, and the inexorable nature of the death ‘foretold’ even from the first line, makes Chronicle of a Death Foretold wonderfully engrossing.

All in all this is a very evocative, well-paced read, which explodes the conventional detective narrative by disclosing the ending at the start, and which I’m sure contains many interesting allusions and parallels I was enjoying the story too much to pick up on.

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