A Brief History of Seven Killings, Paperback

A Brief History of Seven Killings Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


*WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2015* JAMAICA, 1976 Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley's house, machine guns blazing.

The reggae superstar survives, but the gunmen are never caught.

From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a dazzling display of masterful storytelling exploring this near-mythic event.

Spanning three decades and crossing continents, A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters - slum kids, drug lords, journalists, prostitutes, gunmen and even the CIA.

Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.




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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Every now and again the leading literary critics seem to get together to consider whether they can pull off another emperor's new clothes scam on the reading public. The cover of this book is adorned with numerous plaudits, including one proudly attesting that the book was included on '23 best books of the year' lists. I wonder if they had been reading the same impenetrable text that I found.In a recent review of James Ellroy's 'Perfidia' I remarked that, as I will probably be dead in twenty years' time, I simply don't have time to waste on books that are deliberately impenetrable abstruse. This novel was an even more blatant offender. Still, I won in the end - I simply left it in the underground train when I alighted, feeling suddenly free of a pernicious burden.

Review by

Superb. A book I have been waiting most of my life to read. Marlon James handling of voice and perspective is amazing, and whilst he does occasionally make the reader do some mental calisthenics to tie all the threads together, he gets the balance just right most of the timeSO WHAT'S THIS BOOK ABOUT?: It takes as its starting point, the shooting of Bob Marley and members of his entourage in December 1976, presumed to be by members of the CIA backed JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) in response to the upcoming Smile Jamaica Peace Concert to be held a couple of days later, which had initially been intended to be politically neutral but was widely seen as an initiative of the left leaning, Cuban backed PNP (People's National Party) . The book is based around the shooting, the perpetrators of the shooting, a witness to it, and an American journalist who wants to write about it, and then follows the main characters into the 1990s in the Jamaican controlled drug trade in New York. Whilst the characters are fictional, a couple are pretty easily identifiable with real people who are now dead and its possible that Marlon James is making accusations about the perpetrators of the Marley shootingWHAT WOULD IT HELP ME TO KNOW BEFORE READING? A little of the history of political violence in Jamaica in the 1970s, the role of Bob Marley as a neutral figure of influence above politics, and the Jamaican take over of the New York drug trade. Also, the text is littered with references to Marley's lyrics and also the lyrics from other reggae hits of the timeIS THE JAMAICAN PATOIS HARD TO UNDERSTAND? No - you've just got to read the book with the rhythm of the accent in your head, and you will soon get into the swingWHY IS BOB MARLEY REFERRED TO AS "THE SINGER"? Presumably to avoid trouble from the litigous Marley family. Not every reference to him here would necessarily be considered positive, from his eye for the ladies, to alleged presence at kangaroo courts. IS ANYONE ELSE REAL? Marlon James has been at pains to point out that the characters are composites, but several characters, such as "Papa-Lo" and "Josey Wales" are clearly identifiable with real people. As for the communities of Kingston that are referred to, "Copenhagen City" is clearly a composite of Tivoli Gardens, still a JLP stronghold todayWHY IS IT CALLED "A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS" WHEN THERE ARE MORE THAN SEVEN, AND ITS NOT BRIEF?: This is the title of article that the journalist Alex Pierce, is writing for The New Yorker.IS IT PERFECT? No but I am giving it 5 stars anyway. A couple of the threads don't' work very well. The involvement of the CIA and Cuban interests don't make sense unless you are aware of the political affiliations of the JLP and PNP which most readers won't be. The circumstances of the death of the a most feared hitman seems unlikely. One character seems to be able to change identities at a bewildering speed which again seems unlikely . Most importantly, naming one of the most important characters Josey Wales, when there is a historical DJ called Josey Wales, active at the same time, and its not him was a bit weird. And the US based scenes in the second half of the book don't carry the same punch as the Jamaican scenes, for me anywayANY OTHER QUIRKS? A couple. Firstly in the cast of characters at the beginning of the book, there are a couple of characters listed who don't actually appear. Really. I assume this was a reference to the notoriously inaccurate Jamaican record covers of the 1970s. And there are musical references which are out of time. For example the hitman Bam-Bam wants to "rip the S off Superman's chest, pull the B from Batman belly" which is a reference to a lyric in a Barrington Levy song, but one from several years after the unfortunate Bam-Bam's demiseSHOULD I READ IT? Yes - its genius. Read it now and give a copy to your friends

Review by

An intense, epic tale, this is a visceral, vibrant, violent book, and an impressive feat of literary ventriloquism, largely written in various forms of Jamaican patois. Not an easy read, and not an easy book to judge either. A story that tells much about Jamaica's politics and ghetto gangs and their motivations. The starting point is the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in Kingston in 1976 - but the scope of the story is much wider.