Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Book of Night Women” as Want to Read:
The Book of Night Women
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Book of Night Women

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  9,351 ratings  ·  1,454 reviews
The Book of Night Women is a sweeping, startling novel, a true tour de force of both voice and storytelling. It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they and she will come to both revere and fear.

The Night Women, as they call
...more
Hardcover, 417 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by Riverhead Books (first published January 17th 2009)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Book of Night Women, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Marlene Braxton Amazing, how late I am to the party. I want to add my thoughts on this question, nevertheless. If you know slave history, you will remember that durin…moreAmazing, how late I am to the party. I want to add my thoughts on this question, nevertheless. If you know slave history, you will remember that during Europe's "Age of Reason" (16th - 17th Century), slaveowners named/renamed their chattel after gods/demi-gods in Greek mythology. The "masters" entertained themselves with the irony of this cruel joke. Slaves were ignorant, powerless beasts in their minds not, the potent, intelligent gods (read: masters) who wreaked havoc in the lives of humanity for their pleasure. James adds another layer of authenticity to his novel by following this convention. Lilith, however, is not named for a Greek goddess but one from Africa (Mesopotamia and the Euphrates river). Lilith is the Babylonian name meaning "Of the Night." She was a demon that caused destruction. In Jewish (Mesopotamian) tradition, she was Adam's first wife, who got thrown out of Eden because she would not submit to her husband. The narrator wants you to know that Lilith is an African (not Greek) goddess, a demon, and his beloved---. And are we not always many different things to many different people?(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,351 ratings  ·  1,454 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Book of Night Women
Rowena
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in learning about slavery
Updated review (November 8, 2015)

"Every negro walk in a circle. Take that and make of it what you will. A circle like the sun, a circle like the moon, a circle like bad tidings that seem gone but always, always come back.”- Marlon James, The Book of Night Women

When I first read this book in 2012, I didn’t think I would ever read it again. The depictions of violence were really hard to read, mainly because I knew that although they were fictional, they were probably very representative of what
...more
Petra-X
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone in the entire world
It is a rare author that could make me like and remain interested in, even after I finished the book, a character who killed a lot of people, including burning children alive. It is the first book I've ever read about slaves where I understood slavery from the slaves point of view. I've read many slave memoirs where I have sympathised, been terribly moved and angry at the injustice, but I've never really understood how slaves carved out lives within the tiny sphere of self-determination they wer ...more
karen
this book hurts. in so many ways. initially, it hurts to get acclimated to the narrator's voice. whenever i read books written in dialect it always takes me at least 40 pages to start to get the hang of it (i curse you, irvine welsh!!) and then it hurts because it's such a raw and bloody depiction of the physical and emotional bullshit of slavery. and then after it's all done, it hurts that it's so well written, you just want more of it. so i'm awfully glad i broke my promise about "not buying a ...more
Richard
"We not getting free, we taking free."
OUT. FUCKING. STANDING.

This book floored me. Seriously. I was so stunned by the time I finished that I couldn't sleep for a while, even though I had to be to work on set at 6am the following day! The Book of Night Women is the best coming of age novel I've encountered; it really is unlike anything I've read before. Night Women, Marlon James's second novel, follows a mulatto girl named Lilith, who is born into slavery in late 18th-century Jamaica,
...more
Michael
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, favorites
Broad in scope and full of suspense, The Book of Night Women tells the tale of a fictional slave rebellion in 18th-century Jamaica, through the life story of a single enslaved woman. The historical novel follows Lilith, the biracial orphan of a deceased Black woman raped by one of her plantation’s overseers, from youth to adulthood, as she endures countless indignities at the hands of white colonists, struggles to connect with other slaves, and longs for liberation. At the core of the novel is L ...more
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

...more
brian
Feb 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to brian by: karen brissette, chris wilson
well, the 'question of evil' has plagued philosophers thinkers and all the rest of us ordinary folk since, i'd imagine, we were first capable of thought: how can god allow such horrible shit to go down? is the horribleness of humanity proof that god doesn't exist? as a wee lad in hebrew school i was told that we simply cannot understand what god is up to, that the whole enterprise of trying to figure god's motives was corrupted with inferior - that is, 'human' - logic... "so don't even bother tr ...more
Petra-X
I dnf'd this book because I swapped to audio (proper review there). I wanted to read this book because of this review which made me laugh:

"I have spent the last week or so with words going through my brain that one cannot use in the real world. There was not only the oft-repeated word for a black person that was common in the 18th century, but there was constant use of the c-word and the p-word for female genitalia and the c-word for mail genitalia and the f-word for what the f-word really means
...more
Agnieszka
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Truly powerful stuff. And harrowing report of human misery. The novel is literally dripping with abuse and violence both verbal and physical. Directed at slaves. But there is a slave and slave. The book of night women is about inhuman, barbarous treatment and punishing system, it’s about cruelty and humiliation delivered not only by masters but also by slaves to themselves, men to women, women to women. The story told here is a spiral of terror and brutality. It’s nothing like saccharine pictur
...more
Lisa
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Have I already read the best book I'll read in 2019? Lilith, a female slave, born in 1795 Jamaica, is one of most complicated, compelling women I have encountered in literature. I was totally immersed in her story even as I gasped in horror. (I recommend listening to the audio which was amazingly narrated by Robin Miles) The violence is unrelenting - as is the pain and torture and hatred. But how else can slavery be understood? It is a heart-shattering novel that I can’t imagine ever forgetting. ...more
kisha
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
UPDATE
I just finished rereading this and some of my thoughts have shifted a bit. I had last given this book 5 stars. This time I'm giving it 4 stars. The author has a weird obsession with lady parts. He must have implemented his obsession with lady parts in at least every other page of this novel and almost every time it brought nothing to the plot. I will do a new review later but for now my old one is below.


"Every negro walk in a circle. Take that and make of it what you will."

To call this boo
...more
Greg
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-is-shit, fiction

This song was running through my head for most of the second half of the book.

But no one ever changed the church by pulling down a steeple
And you'll never change the system by bombing number ten
Systems just aren't made of bricks they're mostly made of people
You may send them into hiding, but they'll be back again



Movements are systems and systems kill

(some ramblings about politics has been excised here)

Following the general theories of Marx, and discounting Rousseau's mythology about the noble sa
...more
Monica
Wow! An intricate, well driven plot with very complex characters. James is a masterful story teller! His novels are character driven and by the time the story ends, you understand the characters and their motivations. Even the most vile characters are given substance. He is an excellent chronicler of the human condition. So interesting and insightful and vibrant. James is a bit of a unicorn in that he understands and can write female characters who come across as authentic. The main character Li ...more
Chris
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2010

Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
-- African proverb


In 1750 or thereabouts, a British man named Thomas Thistlewood became restless after failing to establish himself as a farmer (would you expect a genius to take to farming?), boarded a ship headed for Jamaica, arrived to find a land quite welcoming to white folks (despite the fact that 95% of the countryside population was black), and settled in for the life he so richly deserved. Thistlewood’s
...more
7jane
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On a large Jamaican sugar plantation, the Montpelier estate, in 1785, Lilith is born into slavery. Growing up, her character comes to notice of the group of six slave women called the Night Women, who have plotted for years for a slave revolt, and they ask her to join them. Problem is, her loyalties seem to be divided and thus putting the possibility of the revolt in danger…

This is a rough read; those who ask ‘is this novel suitable for my impressionable teenager?’ sometimes don't need replies t
...more
Britt
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This book was amazing. I often get caught on an idea about what makes a good book and then books like The Book of Night Women comes along and basically says "No, THIS is what makes a good book". I appreciate how deliberate James was with his character development. I was concerned throughout the book that Homer would be some magical Negro that would be there to perform her superhero magic and save the day, but then we get into her flaws and I loved her complexity more and more as the book progres ...more
Carol
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Truly an astonishing piece of work. Mesmerizing. Horrifying.

Review to follow....
Perry
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Night Women Awaken Jamaican Slave Revolt
4.5 stars

Set against the backdrop of a lush Jamaican sugar plantation in the early 19th Century, the novel follows the life of Lilith born to a slave mother, sired by a white master, who seems to have powers of darkness. After fending off a rape, she is sent from her adoptive slave mother in the fields to slave in the plantation house. Despite being warned by the mother-figure slave in the house not to try to ingratiate herself to the new master newly arri
...more
Chrissie
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chrissie by: Gaeta1
The Jamaican patois, narrated by Robin Miles, is remarkable. I was able to find this audiobook at Downpour!

If you choose to read this book, you simply must read this version narrated by Robin Miles, but you must pay close attention. The Jamaican patois isn't the easiest to follow, but it is worth the effort. The narration adds to the value of the book. You are a slave and you HATE the English estate owners, particularly Miss Isabelle. I do at least. I want to slap her and ..... The different cha
...more
Read By RodKelly
"Every Negro walk in a circle, take that and make of it what you will"

So goes the powerful refrain that recurs and resonates throughout Marlon James's tale of unimaginable abuse and violent retribution on a magisterial plantation in 18th century Jamaica.

The novel tells the story of Lilith, a mulatto slave caught in the crossroads of history, aching to find an identity of her own in world in which destiny is a pathological cycle of pain and suffering, a winding road leading only to bloodshed and
...more
Laila (BigReadingLife)
This book was amazing.

Utterly devastating, but amazing.

Now I need to read and own everything else Marlon James has written or will ever write.
Aubrey
4.5/5
Who is there when we recall great womens? My name write in blood and me don't answer to it much.
1785 was the year of the birth of Grimm and De Quincey and a character named Lilith, apparently. Some of that can be taught in grade school and some of it cannot, although that barrier evaporates soon enough judging by the conniptions people are throwing over the concept of trigger warnings. Rape. Murder. Systematic savagery. The stuff of modern day dystopias and zombie adventures except it a
...more
Jan
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this when it first came out and it has stayed with me. Marlon James is a writing god and this book is powerful beyond words.
Christina
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book_club
Jesus, what a book. This book is absolutely unflinching in its portrayal of slavery in 18th century Jamaica. Vicious prose, and in-your-face, no-holds-barred detail. It's also completely dedicated to voice and perspective, and the choices James made here are exquisitely laudable. It also weaves a beautiful story amid tragic characters, with enough sensory language to make you cringe. This is, absolutely, a book about what it means to make choices.

There are three things I'll say about this book:
1
...more
Kima Jones
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
This is the worst book I've ever read in my life.I cannot discuss it without giving "spoilers," but I will say this: slave narratives are not the place to be fucking around.

James' language is crude, vile and lends nothing to the narrative. The narrative is hinged on over romanticized relationships between slaves and slave masters. In a very trite attempt to trouble the discourse or spark a nuanced discussion, Marlon James has successfully belittled the politics of enslaved black women of this ti
...more
Kathy
Mar 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was AMAZING!!!! It was one of the few books I never wanted to put down and I even finished it in my designated book loan time period.

Warning this book is very graphic, language and imagery. What was the most powerful part of the book and of James' narrative was he described perfectly a system of oppression that you still see in today's society. The destruction of communities, pitting one person against another, the internalized oppression, you still see that today.

I also really liked
...more
Arlene
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the first that I have read by Marlon James, OMFG it was so damn good. I was hooked by this book right from page one. This book follows a slave woman named Lilith from her birth to womanhood and the plantation that she lives on in Jamacia between the timeframe of 1785 to1801, which isn't a place I have ever read a slavery tale from. I don't want to give too much about the plot of the story because I feel like you should go into this book blind, but just know that it is a slave narrative and t ...more
Keyona
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"You see this? This book? As long as you can’t read this white man will have all sort of power over you."

This book was just...EVERYTHING. It did take me a while to get into it. I was reading very slowly and not getting anywhere. So I switched to the audio version and that was the best thing for me. In my opinion, that's the best way to experience this book. Robin Myles narrates this book and she DID that. I didn't realize how much of a skilled narrator she was until this book. She did every
...more
Emma
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Every negro walk in a circle. Take that and make of it what you will.'
This book will stay with me for a long time.
BookOfCinz
June 20, 2018
Bad feeling is a country no woman want to visit. So they take good feeling any which way it come. Some time that good feeling come by taking on a different kinda bad feeling.

I first read "The Book of Night Women" by Marlon James three years ago and decided to give it a re-read because I remember enjoying the book a lot.

The Book of Night Women is set on plantation in Jamaica back in the 18th century. It follows the lives of the plantation owners and the some Night Women as they pl
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica
  • Sugar (Sugar Lacey, #1)
  • The Water Dancer
  • Here Comes the Sun
  • Orzeszkowo 14. Historie z Podlasia
  • The Nickel Boys
  • She Would Be King
  • Augustown
  • Girl, Woman, Other
  • The Last Warner Woman
  • This Bitter Earth (Sugar Lacey, #2)
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer
  • Across the Way
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory
  • Friday Black
  • The Knife-Edge Path
  • The Polished Hoe
  • Amiable with Big Teeth
See similar books…
3,235 followers
Marlon James is a Jamaican-born writer. He has published three novels: John Crow's Devil (2005), The Book of Night Women (2009) and A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014), winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Now living in Minneapolis, James teaches literature at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to parents who were both in the Jamaican police: his mo
...more

Related Articles

A mercenary seeks a missing child, a dead man’s brain is reactivated, a woman travels to the Mayan underworld, a disease drives its ...
173 likes · 162 comments
“Hate and love be closer cousin than like and dislike.” 15 likes
“She not black, she mulatto. Mulatto, mulatto, mulatto. Maybe she be family to both and to hurt white man just as bad as hurting black man…..Maybe if she start to think that she not black or white, then she won’t have to care about neither man’s affairs. Maybe if she don’t care what other people think she be and start think about what she think she be, maybe she can rise over backra and nigger business, since neither ever mean her any good. Since the blood that run through her both black and white, maybe she be her own thing. But what thing she be?” 14 likes
More quotes…