2015 Man Booker Shortlist: A Brief History of Seven Killings Marlon James
The Man Booker Prize will be announced next tuesday. Monday we will make our final prediction for winner. Before we do so, we wanted to post a final review for one of the books that has been shortlisted. Find out what Book Worm thought about James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Published: September 2015
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: 4 stars
Find it/buy it here: A Brief History of Seven Killings
The first thing to say about this book is the title is a lie. There are way more than 7 killings and at 700 odd pages this is not a brief history. The central theme of the novel is supposed to be the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and the failure of peace in Jamaica, yet the singer is never really present. He remains in the background as an almost mythical figure and as a back drop to events experienced by the books other characters.
This is a complicated book as there are so many individual narrators and characters. It got to the point where I was having to make notes to keep people in order — something not helped by the fact the narrative was not always linear.
In terms of originality this didn’t get full marks from me because it is a story about gangs and politics and an embellished version of real events. Many of the narrative techniques have been used before. I still scored it relatively high due to the use of so many individual narrators (each with a slightly different viewpoint) and the way that the narrative was drawn together at the end of the book.
For me there were 3 main characters and they were complex, with varying motives for everything they did. The minor characters were also well drawn and added to the story.
Writing Quality is a difficult one as a lot of the book is written in Jamaican slang, which some readers may find off putting. Apart from this, there was not really anything that distinguished this from a well written gang thriller. That said, it is a solidly written story.
I would just add that this is not a book for the faint hearted because from the outset there are detailed descriptions of violence, torture, murder and rape and these descriptions continue throughout the whole narrative.
Overall, I do agree with the judges decision to shortlist this. Here’s the way I rating the book (according to our previously developed long list scoring criteria.
Available in English 1 / 1
Published in the UK 1 / 1
Originality 6 / 8
Character Complexity 5 / 5
Writing Quality 4 / 5
Want to try it for yourself? In our opinion it’s one of the better shortlisted books. You can buy a copy here: A Brief History of Seven Killings
Have you read this book? What did you think? Should it have made the shortlist? Do you think it will (or should) win the prize?