A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

This is a really hard book to review without a load more research! Is it fact? How true? Who knows? So some thoughts…

The Jamaican patois/slang is a bit wearing and it is hard to tell the characters apart by what they say. The book is woman-hating to a horrendous degree and maybe that is Jamaican gang culture but it isn’t nice. There are lots of murders, graphically described, bits of people blown off, everyone wets and poos themselves on the way so it is messy.

Bob Marley, the Singer, is peripheral to it all. So is the CIA, trying to run various shows. I liked that bit, sleazy whites working to undermine the politics of the time but then the political culture seems beyond redemption anyway. The writer ‘bigs himself up’ at the end and gets drawn into the narrative, warned off saying some things by the gangsters. Not sure that works.

Sum up? I don’t buy this picture of deprived and depraved humanity. I think gang members may have some fun, be nice to their wives and kids. Maybe this book is quite racist deep down and maybe offensive? I should read a Jamaican review.


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