Rebecca's Reviews > A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
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really liked it
bookshelves: giveaways-winner, door-stoppers, reviewed-third-way, booker-winners

(3.5) James, the son of Jamaican police officers, has spoken of his intention to write about violence in such a way that it is shocking every time, and he certainly succeeds here. This is an edgy, worthwhile Booker pick, but not for the faint-hearted. For the most part, James alternates patois and standard speech, but nearly every section is packed with local slang and expletives. Whether in monologue or dialogue, the many voices form a captivating chorus. One stand-out perspective is Bam-Bam’s; his chapters are full of run-on phrases, remarkably page-turning even as it’s distressing to see how inured he is to sexualized violence.

The novel is in five parts, each named after a popular song or album of the time. James’s scope, especially as he follows Josey Wales to the Bronx, is too wide. All the narrative switches, once so dynamic, grow tiresome. At 350 pages this would have been a five-star read. Nevertheless, I’ll be watching the HBO miniseries.

Welcome to de dread
circle of carnage – blade to blade, bullet
to bullet, body to body, this is our country.

(From “Filop Plays the Role of Papa Ghede (2010),” The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion by Kei Miller.)


(Full review to appear in December 2015 issue of Third Way magazine.)

I was delighted to win a free copy through Goodreads First Reads.
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2014 – Shelved
August 7, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
September 14, 2014 – Shelved as: giveaways-winner
September 25, 2014 – Shelved as: door-stoppers
August 11, 2015 – Shelved as: reviewed-third-way
October 13, 2015 – Started Reading
October 13, 2015 – Shelved as: booker-winners
October 26, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Jeffers I cannot wait to get my hands on this one...


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm reading it now and I'm only 30 pages or so in, but it's totally brilliant so far (the first paragraph is SO GOOD). But it's really going to take me forever to read...it begs for attention.


Jill Oh yeah, it's good enough. But much of it is written in patois and there's a number of characters, so you really DO need to clear the decks. Beautifully written, though.


Rebecca I just read a really interesting interview with the author: http://www.biographile.com/behind-the...


Paul Happy Birthday for Tomorrow!


message 6: by Francielli (new) - added it

Francielli Camargo Good timing ;)


Rebecca Paul wrote: "Happy Birthday for Tomorrow!"

Thanks! You'll be unsurprised to learn that I plan to spend it pretty much just reading.


Rebecca Francielli wrote: "Good timing ;)"

Better timing would have been finishing it rather than starting it on announcement day, but at least I now have a taste of why they picked it.


Paul Rebecca wrote: "Paul wrote: "Happy Birthday for Tomorrow!"

Thanks! You'll be unsurprised to learn that I plan to spend it pretty much just reading."


Sounds perfect


Issicratea I just finished reading this myself and was very interested to see your response to it. I agree absolutely with your judgment that "at 350 pages this would have been a five-star read." It got very dispersive at the end, in particular. What writing, though! I thought it was breathtaking at points.


Rebecca Issicratea wrote: "It got very dispersive at the end, in particular. What writing, though! I thought it was breathtaking at points."

I found myself losing interest during the last two sections, especially the final one. Parts 1 and 2 were splendid, though; I agree that many of the voices there are absolutely hypnotic. Bam-Bam, Nina and Sir Arthur were a few of my favourite narrators.


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