Summary and book reviews of A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon Jones

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by Marlon Jones

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon Jones X
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon Jones
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 704 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2015, 784 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a revealing modern epic spanning Kingston in the '70s, the crack wars in '80s New York, and a radically altered Jamaica in the '90s.

Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the next day, not to return for two years.

Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters - assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts - A Brief History of Seven Killings is the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the '70s, to the crack wars in '80s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the '90s. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a revealing modern epic that will secure Marlon James' place among the great literary talents of his generation.

Sir Arthur George Jennings

Listen. Dead people never stop talking. Maybe because death is not death at all, just a detention after school. You know where you're coming from and you're always returning from it. You know where you're going though you never seem to get there and you're just dead. Dead. It sounds final but it's a word missing an ing. You come across men longer dead than you, walking all the time though heading nowhere and you listen to them howl and hiss because we're all spirits or we think we are all spirits but we're all just dead. Spirits that slip inside other spirits. Sometimes a woman slips inside a man and wails like the memory of making love. They moan and keen loud but it comes through the window like a whistle or a whisper under the bed, and little children think there's a monster. The dead love lying under the living for three reasons. (1) We're lying most of the time. (2) Under the bed looks like the top of a coffin...

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  • award image

    Man Booker Prize
    2015

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

One of the many strengths of Seven Killings is its resolute insistence on authenticity. It is obvious that James has no patience for tired cliches about Jamaica (you won’t find the word mon here, except as ironic device). It’s perhaps one of the reasons the narrative is equipped with such a diversity of voices and points of view. Piece them all together and you get something entirely breathtaking and maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of truth.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (652 words).

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Media Reviews

The Wall Street Journal
[A] tour de force… [an] audacious, demanding, inventive literary work.

Los Angeles Times
Thrilling, ambitious…Both intense and epic.

Entertainment Weekly
Nothing short of awe-inspiring.

The Washington Post
Exploding with violence and seething with arousal, the third novel by Marlon James cuts a swath across recent Jamaican history…This compelling, not-so-brief history brings off a social portrait worthy of Diego Rivera, antic and engagé, a fascinating tangle of the naked and the dead.

The New York Times Book Review
[Marlon James] is a virtuoso …[the novel is] an epic of postcolonial fallout, in Jamaica and elsewhere, and America’s participation in that history. …the book is not only persuasive but tragic, though in its polyphony and scope it’s more than that….It makes its own kind of music, not like Marley’s, but like the tumult he couldn’t stop.

Rolling Stone
An excellent new work of historical fiction … part crime thriller, part oral history, part stream-of-consciousness monologue.

The Economist
A strange and wonderful novel…Mr. James’s chronicle of late 20th-century Jamaican politics and gang wars manages consistently to shock and mesmerise at the same time.

GQ (UK)
A dazzling fictional representation of Jamaica.

Kirkus Reviews
James is masterful at inhabiting a variety of voices and dialects, and he writes unflinchingly about the violence, drug-fueled and coldblooded, that runs through [Jamaica's] ghettos…James' fiction thus far is forming a remarkable portrait of Jamaica in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Upon finishing, the reader will have completed an indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years. This novel should be required reading.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Stunning… A brilliant novel, highly recommended; one of those big, rich, magisterial works that lets us into a world we really don't know.

Author Blurb Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting
A Brief History of Seven Killings is an amazing novel of power, corruption and lies. I can't think of a better one I've read this century.

Author Blurb Russell Banks
This novel cracks open a world that needs to be known. It has epic reach and achieves it. It's scary and lyrically beautiful - you'll want to read whole pages aloud to strangers.

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Beyond the Book

The Shower Posse

A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the rise of a Jamaican drug gang in the United States. This fictional organization seems to be loosely modeled after the real-life Shower Posse, a violent Jamaican gang linked with numerous killings, with strongholds in large American cities such as New York and Miami.

The origins of the gang date back to the early '60s, when Edward Seaga, a Jamaican politician belonging to the country's conservative Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) decided to embark on a project of urban renewal in the capital city of Kingston. It created a separate community called Tivoli Gardens. Citizens sympathetic to Seaga were housed in the new buildings, while many residents were forcibly evicted. To maintain ...

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