#CBR7 Review #202: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

I make it a point to read the winner of the Man Booker Award each year. I’ve managed to accomplish this task for the last three years running, even if I have to wait a bit at the library for the book. I don’t always get to the shortlist nominees, however. And sometimes, my predictions for the winner are wrong. Of the 2015 shortlisted books, I’d only read Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen (which I thought was very good), so I’d been pulling for that one. But now after reading the actual winner, I think the Booker Committee got it right.

Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings is an expansive tome. That’s putting it lightly. At almost 700 pages, it packs a major punch. The premise follows the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976, and it covers the years before and the decades after, decades in which this attempted murder will echo across Jamaica’s political landscape. The enormous cast of characters includes several gang members, their leaders, a CIA agent, a young woman, and a ghost. There are Americans and Jamaicans alike, speaking variations of English that will elate and frustrate you. In short, this novel is a kaleidoscope of experience, language, and plot.

The first third of the book sets up the other two thirds, and once you understand the dialectical forms of English, you can find the rhythm within the writing. It’s a thoroughly rewarding book with lots of interesting twists and plot points that will surprise and intrigue you at once. I’m really glad I read this book, even if it was a bit daunting at first. I am going to look for Marlon James’ other works for Cannonball Read 8.


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