A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – A Review
Written by Marlon James, this is an oral history which is told through multiple voices. It is difficult to make multiple voices work in a novel, but James has expertly been able to make it successful. The characters are engaging and real which make them much easier to listen to as the multiple voices of the story unravel. If you can get past the Jamaican accents in the writing you will surely find the characters are remarkable at telling this story.
The overall negative aspect of this book is the long list of characters that you must keep straight and who are telling the story; seventy six characters in all. There is a list sorted by time and location at the beginning of the book, but this hardly makes it easier to understand the overall story. If you can get over the large list of characters and understand the important ones and the story they are telling, you will get so much more out of this book. You will likely find yourself turning to the front list of characters several times while you are reading this book.
The story of politics and crime is hardly a new one. But in Kingston back in 1976 this story really is able to bring us through some of the big events of crime and politics from a unique perspective. There is the attempted assassination of Bob Marley before his 1976 concert and the bloodbath of conspirators that happened afterwards. There is plenty of violence in this book as well as gangs, CIA agents and plots. Again, returning to the character list at the beginning of the book is going to be necessary to keep all the characters straight.
The politics and deceit that James writes about in this book takes on a new and interesting turn because of his writing. We are interested in all the characters and happy to turn back and forth trying to keep them straight. You will love the blood and fights, the subornation and survival; all extremely enthralling as you read A Brief History of Seven Killings. James is very good at using the characters in this book to drive the plot and continue to make you want to read more and more, before you know it you will have finished the book and might even want to read it a second time.