A Brief History of Seven Killings - Marlon James (2015)

A brief history of seven killings doesn’t pull any punches. Right from start James throws you in to the deep end, trying to drown you in names, places and pages and pages of near indecipherable lingo. But that’s not to say it’s unwelcoming.

Centring the story on the shooting of Bob Marley’s house, and the consequent history of the gunmen that took part, it takes a winding path across times and places, disorienting at times and always bold, there is a feeling that you’re being submersed in something authentic. The wide range of characters invite you to see the world as they do, and through these multiple viewpoints a well-rounded view of 1976 Kingston is built filled with emotion, politics, violence and of course, music.

This story has a flow to it, a rhythm that pushes it forward to its inevitable conclusion. The way that the language worms its way into your head, and makes you feel like one of the locals is intoxicating and left me wanting to be there.

But this book certainly has its drawbacks. It is long by most standards and I, for one, faltered around the 1/3rd mark (I jumped across to read a short novel before coming back to wrap it up). The cast of characters serves to provide a multifaceted view of what’s happening, but I felt myself (especially at the beginning), spending a lot more time than I would like in the front of the book reading the cast page to try and figure out who the hell I was reading about, who they were allied to and what their deal was.

All in all I definitely liked the book, but it is not one I would recommend willy-nilly. It’s certainly not for everyone. I know that plenty of blokes didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did, and some liked it a whole lot more but if you haven’t, think about giving it a go.

It’s a hell of a ride.

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