I started reading Marlon James’ epic novel A Brief History of Seven Killings in May 2015 and did not finish until January 2016.
I’m not a slow reader. In the past year I’ve read lengthy novels such as The Famished Road and The Wizard of the Crow in two weeks. I am also not averse to authors who utilize stream of consciousness, a complex technique that shifts between the interior monologues of multiple characters. Toni Morrison’s Beloved is one of my favorite novels of all time. But A Brief History bored me to the point that, for months, I lost motivation to finish.
If you are familiar with this blog, you will know that I am a huge fan of Marlon James. His second novel The Book of Night Women, is among the best I’ve read in recent years. But unfortunately, A Brief History took me on a journey that was cumbersome and painfully slow. If you don’t believe me, note that the first few pages of the introduction include a list of roughly 30 characters, some introduced only briefly to the slowly building complex plot via stream of consciousness. Although his writing in A Brief History is highly descriptive, illustrating James’ immense talent for language, the plot crawls, at times painfully, throughout much of the 680 pages
I don’t want to talk at length about what I did not like about this book. We Afro-Librarians prefer to leave lengthy book reviews to critics. This post is simply to share my thoughts on this highly lauded novel since so many readers have asked (via Twitter) for our opinion. And there were beautiful moments and applause worthy passages. The depiction of each significant death was simply poetic, magical even. So if you’re interested in 20th century historic fiction novel depicting Jamaica, politics and the nuance that is Bob Marley, this book will not disappoint. But readers be warned, this novel requires patience and stamina!