'A Brief History of Seven Killings' is praised for its epic history

The book by Marlon James about Jamaica and its culture, which was released today, is being called 'mythic' and 'fascinating.'

'A Brief History of Seven Killings' is by Marlon James.

The new book “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” by Marlon James is receiving rave reviews for its wide-ranging plot and memorable characters. 

In “Seven,” James looks at the history and culture of Jamaica, ranging from the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s, to the drug culture of New York in the 1980s, and then back to Jamaica, a changed country, in the 1990s. Characters include Nina, a Jamaican-born woman who moves to New York and works as a nurse, and Papa-Lo, a don in the city of Kingston.

Amazon selected “Seven” as one of its 10 best books of October althoug Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson noted that “it’s not a peaceful or an easy read.” 

In addition to earning a slot on Amazon's "10 best" list, the book is garnering other praise as well. New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani called James’s novel “epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting – a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent…. Mr. James’s characters … exhale their thoughts in language that is casually profane, and as kinetic and syncopated as music.”

John Domini of the Washington Post was also impressed. 

“This compelling, not-so-brief history brings off a social portrait worthy of Diego Rivera, antic and engagé, a fascinating tangle,” he wrote. “The epic sweep of “Seven Killings” never feels cartoonish.”

Laura Pearson of the Chicago Tribune occasionally found the number of characters confusing, writing that “the reader has to regularly consult the cast of characters listed in the front of the book to put names in context,” a concern shared by Kakutani. However, Pearson also found that “some of the narrative could arguably be condensed” but wrote that the book is “an impressive feat of storytelling: raw, uncompromising, panoramic yet meticulously detailed.” 

Kirkus Reviews also noted the large cast of characters and called the book “occasionally patience-testing,” but found that “James is masterful at inhabiting a variety of voices and dialects…. [H]e has a ferocious and full character in Nina…. But the book is undeniably overstuffed.” 

“Seven” was released on Oct. 2.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.