Review: A Brief History of Seven Killings

This is not an easy book, indeed, it is in every way a difficult book. There are multiple narrators with distinct voices and styles of expression and jarring shifts of perspective. The pace is slow but in a relentless way as tensions swirls around the 1978 Jamaican general election and Bob Marley’s attempts to bring a degree of civil unity via a peace concert. In the process we meet the voices of the people involved in an attempted assassination of Marley, as the violence grows deeper, guns flood into Jamaica and the CIA becomes embroiled in the world of ghetto violence and political corruption.

This is an emotionally taxing book. The violence is graphic and appalling as we learn about the history of abuse and violence behind several of the characters. It is, at times, too much and too hard to continue reading.

I don’t know how well the book works. Possibly it really is all too much. There is no doubt in my mind that Marlon James is an extraordinary writer and his capacity to draw out these characters is compelling. However, I found it hard to focus on events and had to force myself at times to persevere.

A challenge rather than a pleasure but a challenge worth taking.