Greetings, readers! My name is Sareeta Domingo, and I’m an author and fiction editor. It’s my great pleasure to be bringing you a Book of the Week, each week here on Morning Mari.
This Bank Holiday weekend just gone should have seen the Notting Hill Carnival take place on the streets of London, alongside other carnivals around the UK that celebrate Caribbean culture. Sadly, of course, the on-going global pandemic put paid to that – but it did put me in mind of an incredible novel by a celebrated Jamaican author, one that centres around arguably the most recognisable icon from that region of all time, Bob Marley. So my Book of the Week this week is the Booker Prize Winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.
The novel initially focuses on events leading up to and including the real-life assassination attempt on Marley (who is referred to as ‘The Singer’ throughout the novel) in Jamaica in 1976, when armed men raided his home. James fictionalises the developments around this pivotal moment, using multiple characters to paint a picture of the intricacies of gang violence that was often politically motivated, and fuelled by the intervention of agencies outside of Jamaica, like the CIA. There’s an astounding cast of characters, each of whom James inhabits, conveying their individual voices with believability and skill. He takes the narrative from the events of the assassination attempt, through the gang warfare that, with the advent of crack cocaine, spanned across waters into New York in the 1980s, then takes us back to a changed Jamaica in the 90s.
Polyphonic, audacious, violent and challenging, the book is nonetheless unputdownable, with a narrative that’s steeped in history and fact, but also riffs off that to give us a myth-making masterpiece. Rather than brief, the novel is an epic, and shot through with a deep understanding of Jamaica and its undeniable influence on the world. That is why A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James is my Book of the Week this week.