Book-Beer Pairing: A Brief History of Seven Killings
If a book ever cried out for an alcoholic beverage, it is this one. I wanted something tropical and refreshing so I selected Council Brewing Pineapple Tart Saison.
Saisons tend to be sour, low ABV (this one was only 4% making it wildly inappropriate for the book) are super carbonated, and often have some kind of a fruity component. In this case Pineapple. Supposedly this is killer on tap, but it wasn’t great in the bottle. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. I got the sour, but didn’t get the pineapple at all. I’ve had other Council Saisons I’ve liked much better than this, but it really would be a good beer for sitting on the beach in Jamaica….
And if you were a character in A Brief History of Seven Killings, you’d likely lift the bottle to your lips and be killed in some horrific fashion. Bumbaclot!
I started reading this book right around the time the Man Booker Prize was announced and after 60 pages, I realized that the dialect was going to kill me, so I decided to do the audio. I spent a lot of time in Jamaica in the ’80’s and I felt I had enough of a handle on the Patois that the audio would be a breeze. It wasn’t.
The audio was brilliant though. I’m a little bit blown away. 26-hours long, and I had to listen at regular speed (which I never do). I’ve been entrenched in this book so long, I almost called somebody a “Pussy Hole” the other day. (That gives you an idea of the language in the book.) There were multiple narrators, and 95% of the time the performances were stellar. (There was a funky accent dude toward the end I almost couldn’t tolerate. It was like this Irish trying to be Jamaican thing.) I’ve listened to a lot of audio at this point, and this is among the best.
I don’t know how much of this story is true, and how much is fiction, but it is absolutely based on true events. Jamaica is a dangerous place, and has been for a long time. It’s impossible to think about this book and not think about my own time there. I remember being in Kingston in the mid-80’s and not having an inkling how dangerous it was. Only later learning that Kingston was the 4th most dangerous city in the world.
This book was filled with fascinating characters, with interesting philosophies and justifications. It was also filled with depravity. Deep depravity. It was a complex book, and circumstantially it was impossible to fully absorb it all. I almost feel like going back and reading it now. Jamaica was a country divided politically, (another sidebar, sorry: I knew nothing of these struggles when I used to go there. I’m embarrassed for younger me. She was oblivious.), corrupt and violent. This really is an historical fiction. This was a book with a high degree of difficulty, and Marlon James pulled it off. I was fascinated, I was engaged, I laughed, I cringed, and I cringed again.
I only have one issue, and it drove me to distraction and I don’t understand how it passed editing. People in 1976 did NOT speak in the way that these characters spoke. In 1976 people didn’t call each other dude, they didn’t use the F word every other word, and they sure as heck did not say “just sayin'” …. ARGH. It was so disappointing – all this brilliance, all this effort, all this greatness … and nobody edits out “just sayin'” ….? Incidentally, there were 1,100 F-bombs in this book.
For me it was 5 stars, dropped a half star for the baffling anachronisms and conditionally recommended to people who like really really dark books.
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You can purchase a copy of the book here: A Brief History of Seven Killings