21st Century Literature discussion

A Brief History of Seven Killings
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2015 Book Discussions > A Brief History of Seven Killings - Part 1 Original Rockers, Spoilers Allowed (December 2015)

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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
Since the book is a long one I thought one section for each of the 5 parts of the book would work best. A few questions to get the ball rolling:

There is a rich variety of narrative voices in this book - what were your initial impressions? Did you feel that the violence of the language was entirely justified? How do you feel about James anonymising Bob Marley as The Singer? How do you feel about Sir Arthur Jennings and the way his sections set up the expectation that the dead should be allowed to speak? How do you feel about the way James introduces us to Jamaica and the complexity of its politics and gang culture? Any other initial impressions?

Sandra | 114 comments I thought this book was going to be one that I struggled with (for a variety of reasons) and it was not the case! I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to immediately get drawn in to the story. I had no problem with the Jamaican patois either... it's just bad grammar English. The book is "in your face" with crude language and violence which I think helps one to viscerally feel the reality of these vicious, cold blooded gangs. Like Bob Marley once said in a song "Half the story has never been told" but that half is told here, and then some!

message 3: by Portia (last edited Dec 01, 2015 07:31AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Portia I'm in the "This book was a slog" column. But James' writing kept me slogging. In addition to his flashes of humor (the Wile E. coyote moment, for one) James also made me care about his only main female character, Dorcas. Life kept throwing her curves but she is no victim. She just took another name and moved on.

Something that really impressed me was James' dexterity in changing the dialect of his characters.

His grasp of pop culture amazed me. ("Palmolive. You're soaking in it.")

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
Sandra wrote: "I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to immediately get drawn in to the story. I had no problem with the Jamaican patois either... it's just bad grammar English..."

James himself has said he toned down the patois considerably for non-Jamaicans. Google a few videos for the more authentic (and completely incomprehensible to me) thing. James has also discussed how it does have its own rules of grammar, and that Jamaicans will look down on people who "chat bad".

Portia wrote: "Something that really impressed me was James' dexterity in changing the dialect of his characters...."

The range and believability of the different voices is incredible! The weary CIA station chief could have been right out of Graham Greene. I loved his small son declaring "Babylon business this" when his parents made him go to bed or give up his toys.

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
James seems to have taken a lot of his information relating to Marley from Bob Marley: The Untold Story, especially as relates to incidents leading up to and including the shooting. Here's an excerpt from the book that talks about the shooting (historical, but could be considered spoilers for part 2), including the visit from the mysterious and threatening "white bwoi" who tells The Singer to stop trying to cultivate mainstream Americans. http://forum.dancehallreggae.com/show...

Sandra | 114 comments I don't use audiobooks books, I read the old fashioned way. Not because I have anything against audiobooks, it's just the way it's been so far in my life. I imagine the audiobook version of this to be more difficult but at the same time, perhaps, more r'asscloth entertaining!

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
I heard a radio interview with James in which he talked about the patois - there are a number of different "dialects" represented by various characters. Definitely an author who can legitimately be described as a literary ventriloquist.

I was also wondering whether I should have asked more questions about individual characters, but there are just so many of them and it would be unfair to single out the ones that have a role in the later parts of the book at this stage.

Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
I feel similarly to Sandra so far - I thought it would take me a while to get through but I finished the first section pretty quickly and am enjoying it a lot. I know next to nothing about Jamaica or Bob Marley's life so it is interesting to read about the culture through different sets of eyes.

I'm also impressed with the different voices James uses throughout the book. Each character stands out on his or her own. I'm nervous for whatever's going to happen next to Nina.

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2352 comments I have finished the first of the three part audiobook, so assume I have read Part 1 of the print book! In the audio, each character has a different voice, which is helpful and unhelpful both! Some of the Jamacan voices require quite close attention to follow. I cannot say I am enjoying the book, but I do appreciate how it is written.

I think the language used is appropriate to the character who speaks it, even though I'd rather not hear it! I do not know why Marley is referred to only as "the Singer." Perhaps it is to emphasize that he is the only well-known Jamaican singer?

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