On Tuesday 13 October the Man Booker Prize for 2015 was announced.
This years winner was 44-year-old Marlon James from Jamaica (now living in Minneapolis, USA). He is the first writer from Jamaica to win the prize in its 47 year history.
His book A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictional history, an imagined biography of the singer Bob Marley, and the events surrounding an attempted assassination in 1976. Crediting Charles Dickens as one of his former influences, here in his 686 page epic, James pulls together a band of characters:
from witnesses and FBI and CIA agents to killers, ghosts, beauty queens and Keith Richards’ drug dealer – to create a rich, polyphonic study of violence, politics and the musical legacy of Kingston of the 1970s
Michael Wood, Chair of the judges, commented:
‘This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami.
‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.’
It sounds like a riveting pageturner, with its cast of over 75 characters and voices. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve requested my local library buy it. Here is what a few reviewers have had to say:
Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times – Booker winner Marlon James tops Tarantino for body count
Reading Marlon’s prose is akin to injecting liquid fire into your brain.
Kei Miller, The Guardian – bloody conflicts in 70s Jamaica
tendency to inhabit the dark and gory places, and to shine a light on them
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times – Jamaica via a Sea of Voices
raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting
Have you read it yet? Or planning to?