Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize
A recipient of the 2015 American Book Award
One of the Top 10 Books of 2014 – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
Named a best book of the year by:
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Boston Globe
The Huffington Post
The Seattle Times
The Houston Chronicle
Kansas City Star
A “thrilling, ambitious . . . intense” (Los Angeles Times) novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s.
In A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James combines masterful storytelling with his unrivaled skill at characterization and his meticulous eye for detail to forge a novel of dazzling ambition and scope.
On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven unnamed gunmen stormed the singer’s house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but rumors abounded regarding the assassins’ fates. A Brief History of Seven Killings is James’s fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica’s history and beyond. Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters—assassins, drug dealers, journalists, and even ghosts—James brings to life the people who walked the streets of 1970s Kingston, who dominated the crack houses of 1980s New York, and who reemerged into a radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Brilliantly inventive, A Brief History of Seven Killings is an “exhilarating” (The New York Times) epic that’s been called “a tour de force” (The Wall Street Journal).
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2014: This is a book that I did not expect to enjoy. Having finished it—and feeling, as I do now, that A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the best books I’ve read all year—I went back and identified the reasons why I did not expect to like it. Reason #1— The story is an oral history told in multiple voices: that’s true, but James’ enormous talent makes the multiple voices work. Reading the novel is an immersive experience—the characters are real, they are engaging, and James uses them to look at all sides of the story. Yes, the multiple points-of-view are difficult at first, but each voice quickly distinguishes itself as unique and important; the payoff is a novel of sweeping scope and emotion. Reason #2—Many of the characters speak in Jamaican patois: like many readers, I’m not a big fan of dialect on the page. Tell me what they say, not necessarily how they say it. But James pulls it off with remarkable ease. I expected the patois to start to grate once I got further into the book. It never did. The language only added to my understanding of the story and its characters. Reason #3—Violence: this is not an easy book, particularly when it comes to violence. It starts early, and there’s a lot of it (certainly more than seven killings). But it’s there for a reason. By showing the violence, the poverty, and the struggle to survive in 70s Jamaica, James illustrates how the ghetto can change a person. Over time, we see how every man and woman is changed. Reason #4 –It’s about Jamaica: I hesitate to admit that I wasn’t initially interested in a book set in Jamaica. Am I just not interested in a world so different from mine? Whatever the underlying reason, I was wrong to think that way. I could take the easy route and say that this novel is about something more than Jamaica, but that seems obvious. All I can say is: these people were real to me. And like all great novels, James’ work drew me in, entertained me, and changed me in ways I could not have anticipated. –Chris Schluep