Nov 27 2015

A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James

I haven’t been so relieved to finish a book in a very long time. Not that it’s badly written, or even that it’s dull, just that it’s so unrelentingly violent and dismal that I could not, in any of my other entertainments, even approach anything destructive (so, goodbye, playing Witcher 3 or watching True Detective for the duration.) There are things I enjoyed about A Brief History Of Seven Killings (to which also, “brief” my ass.) Nina’s storyline was painfully familiar to me both as an elder sibling and as an immigrant in self-imposed exile. The patois was a lot of fun to read: haven’t enjoyed that kind of immersive conversational writing since, jeez, probably a Roddy Doyle novel. And I learned a lot more about Bob Marley and Jamaica’s history in the late 20th century than I’d known before. But I will never read this book again, and hesitate to recommend it even, Booker win notwithstanding. I’ll excerpt from my conversation with the bff why:

“Yeah, the book I’m reading is tiresomely violent: there are mass shootings, assassinations, drug deaths, beatings, very un-sexy sex. Which is all realistic but unrelentingly ugly, and I am fortunate that my everyday life has more room for happiness and beauty in it than the world depicted in the book. I’m going to be glad to finish it (hopefully today) then will likely take a break from books to read a fashion magazine before plunging back in to other’s, hopefully less depressing, imaginations. Idk, does that sound callous? I mean, I don’t want to dismiss the lived experiences of others but this book highlights the most brutal and sordid chapters of these people’s lives and it’s hard to digest all at once without cutting back on other sources of violence in order to retain some form of mental-emotional balance. I sympathize but would just as soon work towards no one having to live in that world rather than wallow in its filth and details.”

On an even more Doreen-is-a-bad-reader note, I freely admit that a lot of the voices tended to blend into each other for me. I had a hard time differentiating between the expendable shooters, as well as between the American officials/conspirators for too-long stretches of the book. ABHO7K is a challenging novel, and if that’s what you’re into, more power to you. But there were only so many permutations of violence, drugs and cheerless sex I could handle.

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  1. […] about this as a Booker prize winner, though I certainly enjoyed it more than last year’s a A Brief History Of Seven Killings. I wish I had time to look through the rest of the offerings on the shortlist, but I will say that […]

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