A Brief History of Seven Killings
Summer's arrival meant that we had a slightly longer break between our meetings, a perfect excuse for me to suggest the rather hefty A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James which won the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
I have loved all the recent winners so I eagerly started the book whilst on a break in sunny Florida. I expected to be transported to atmospheric and pulsing 1970s Jamaica; I wasn't disappointed. However, what I didn’t anticipate was that I actually didn't want to be transported at all. Every time I picked up the book, I felt like a drowning swimmer, constantly wanting to resurface to gulp fresh air but being forced back down to the the murky water. One thing I need to set straight first about this book, is that the title is rather misleading; it is neither brief nor are there 'seven' killings. To say that it is epic does doesn't do its length any justice and the amount of killings in this book could rival a Quentin Tarantino film.
The book is certainly hugely ambitious, spanning decades, countries and a cast of hundreds. However, what is has in abundance, it lacks in achievement. The novel hinges around the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and its aftermath, and although fiction, a large part of the story is inspired by true events. The ample variety of narrators in the book (including a ghost) gave us insights into many characters that we found it hard to relate to; using more than 40 different narrators results in a scattered feeling and a distinct lack of focus. The author injected authenticity and colour into the story by having a large amount of the narratives in the semi-Patois of ghetto-speak, sadly for me it just made things even more confusing.
The thundering looks on Liz, Becka and Meera’s faces when I saw them said it all, none of us enjoyed reading this book. In fact Becka had to read another book at the same time as relief to this dark and heavy volume. Liz and I did appreciate the author’s masterful characterisation, especially of the only one female character in the book, but Meera and Becka were just plainly relieved that they got through it.
Gang member Bam Bam says early on in the book, ‘people just don’t know a nightmare when they are right in the middle of one’ but we heartily beg to differ, this was certainly a nightmare of a book!
Whilst we struggled through the book, we certainly did not struggle through the delicious food at Bamboula, a Caribbean restaurant in trendy Brixton. We had a yummy plate of Likkle Bikkle to share before I tucked into my mouth watering Jerk Chicken (with a fiery kick) whilst the girls had Ackee and Salt Fish (a pungent treat bursting with flavours) and tasty Fish Curry.
The relaxing vibe of the place meant that we gulped down our rum and wine at top speed whilst congratulating ourselves on finishing a ‘gangsta’ of a book. Whilst we will not be recommending this book to a friend (not one we like anyway), we certainly do recommend Bamboula, if you’re ever in the hood.
Chosen and Written by Katy.