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Fifty pages in and I had my doubts. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to acclimate to the various voices and styles that alternate throughout the book, but I'm glad I did. In the end, this narrative unfurls into a spiraling epic that tracks the rise and fall of some of the most interesting characters I've read in a long time. From Jamaican ghetto don to the world-weary journalist, James finds the most interesting aspect of each individual, and makes you care about them despite their obvious (and sometimes despicable) flaws.
So infectious is the writing, I've caught myself rolling the Jamaican patois around in my head over the last couple of days. It's a long read, but it's worth it. In the end, you'll come away with an understanding of the places, times, and individuals that shaped three decades of Jamaican and American life.
It's been a few days since I finished this book, and the characters' voices are still rattling around in my head. I highly recommend it if you like character driven novels in which the plot takes a backseat. The people in this book affected me as a person.
An amazing book, if you have curiosity and determination. Not for Speed Readers!!
Keep an ipad next to you with a link to a Jamaican Patois site (there are a few) A tremendous study of music, Jamaica, Caribbean politics and intrigue, history and culture.
In my opinion richly deserving of the Booker, probably the most interesting read I've had this year.
I loved it, but it is definitely not for everyone!
How to keep track of who is talking? Decided to stop reading after 40 pages - too many other books to read instead of slogging through this one. Frustrating. Can't imagine why it won the Booker; perhaps readability wasn't one of the criteria.
I got very tired of the F word, how did this book win the Man-Booker Award? Its written like an old Uncle Remus book, if you select this book for a long trip be sure to get a back up book.
Like the dialogue and the characters, the story is all over the place. It spans decades and places and subplots. Like much of this novel, if you stick with it, it mostly pays off in the end. I guess that's the briefest possible way I can sum up this novel: it's challenging, but it largely pays off if you persevere.
The only thing worse than a bad novel is a really long bad novel. Even the author acknowledged that it didn't have a story.
Not for the faint of heart, Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings captures the contradictions and conflicts that formed Jamaica in the 1970's. Neither brief, nor limited to seven killings, the work encompasses the birth of a new culture at war with the decline of the existing regime. Rolling Stone reporters, CIA agents, Cuban terrorists, and brown-skinned girls from middle-class Jamaica all orbit the Singer, who is the presence that shapes them through his absence.
A Brief History can be a difficult read because of its multitude of characters, violence, and the complexity of its story. It is also funny, tragic, historically formed, and brilliantly written. Well worth the reading time.
"This country, this goddamn island, is going to kill us."
A sprawling, buzzing, polyphonic novel that spans decades, crossing borders, and gives voice to everyone from gangsters to dead politicians, Marlon James's "A Brief History of Seven Killings" is perhaps the most ambitious book of the last few years. There were other big, important novels last year, like "Purity" and "City on Fire" (Thanks white American novelists!), but this eclipses those books. Starting in Jamaica, where James is from, in 1976, the reader is immersed in the vivid and violent world of Jamaican politics, music, gang wars, and culture. Bob Marley is there as the almost mythic Singer, who was nearly killed in an assassination attempt. James excels at capturing all manner of voices (black, white, male, female, criminal, C.I.A., writer) and creating a fervent, detailed Kingston that breaks through the usual stereotypes (which often reduces the country to reggae, ganja, and beautiful beaches). If there's a flaw, it's that went the book leaves Jamaica for New York it loses some of its passion and drive and settles into a more conventional read. Still, this is an impressive and invigorating novel from a bracing new voice. James now lives and teaches in Minneapolis. This won the Booker in 2015. Suggested pairings: a well-curated reggae/ska playlist, a few Red Stripes, and some rum.
James's Seven Killings is reminiscent of Mailer's "Harlot's Ghost"; Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"--I'm thinking of the historical references and commentary footnoted throughout the novel and the marvelous use of vernacular or language; any Richard Price crime drama; and fellow Man Booker winner Ben Okri's "The Famished Road". Once again ghosts, spirits, or duppies speak. They wend their way throughout this magnificent story, transforming it into fable. I was hooked from the first page. Marlon James deserves his award.
This made no sense and wasn't worth the violence and odd ghetto dialect. I gave up after about 1/4 of the book after really, really trying to like it.
it took 88 pages before i really got into this frustrating but brilliant novel; even so, there were times when i wanted to quit, but i stuck with it, and after the final page, i decided that it was indeed brilliant. But definitely not an easy read!
This novel is perfectly written and sublime. This book is utterly deserving of the Booker Prize. James has transformed the slums and "ghettos" of his Jamaica into world class literature.
Today 9/15/15, this book is short listed for the UK Booker Prize, looking forward to reading it
This is a challenging book on many levels but will stay with you. 100% macho and offers great insight on the unforeseen consequences when big, powerful countries share unwelcome influence wherever they choose.
An outstanding book with wonderful characterizations. I look forward to what comes next from Mr. James, as he states in his afterword that he has more forthcoming.