Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
On 3 December 1976, just weeks before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions, seven gunmen from West Kingston stormed his house.
Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert. Not a lot was recorded about the fate of the seven gunmen, but much has been said, whispered and sung about in the streets of West Kingston.
©2014 Marlon James (P)2014 HighBridge
"Vast and teeming...a vivid novel that deserves all the praise it has received." (Sunday Telegraph)
"This seething, hot, violent, action-packed novel is enormous in every sense...the ambition is huge, but [James] pulls it off with huge style, confidence, imagination and wit.... Extraordinary." (The Times)
"The most original novel I’ve read in years. A haunting, incendiary work." (Irvine Welsh)
I'm a journalist who enjoys breakfast with the paper on a Sunday morning and fresh, crisp bed sheets. Always up for a great yarn.
Listening to this story you can become lost in the world and the time. It really feels like 1970s Jamaica.
Laugh, cry, cringe. It was so raw with so many emotions. Without giving too much away, the way the book deals with death and the act of dying is incredible.
I live in a small town outside Melbourne, in AU. Love my kids, and my wonderful partner. Work as a PM in Melbourne. Love listening to books.
The story is really confronting, and the violence is graphic, but knowing that a lot of what went on is true is the most surreal part?! That this place and time in Jamaica was so lawless, and political. It was truly eye opening, and superb because of it.
First off, I thought the performances were great. The variety of voices is what kept me going more than anything but I just didn't get it. I couldn't finds character to like and at times struggled to see how they fit into the overall story. A complete slog for me to finish this unfortunately.
"Great story telling"
Great story. Well knit together. The most interesting thing that stood out for me was how the story revealed itself through conversation and not explicit descriptions. Some very interesting characters although Nina Burgess' neuroticism got a bit testing at one stage.
The accents were mostly great, even when they weren't meant to be.
Main criticism is the number of re-recordings - all at a different pitch which the really drew attention to the method and not the story.
Still, not a terrible way to spend 26 hours.
The writing's too windy for me. Irrelevant subplots spring from every sentence and makes the whole thing hard to follow.
I read this title for the simple reason that I try to read each Booker winner. Also, I was intrigued by the plot line; the assassination attempt on Bob Marley ("the Singer") in the 80's. Then there was an ensemble cast of narrators and a wonderfully cryptic title that belied the volume of the text. Too hard to go past. Fortunately with all that hype and the expectations of the Booker Prize hovering over it, the book delivers.
The principals are great characters. Josey Wales, gangland outlaw, sits astride the whole story. His "batty" lingo, like the panoply of Jamaican slang that populates the pages, is infectious. In my mind's eye, he was a hard version of Stringer Bell in "The Wire". Then there is a strong female lead, the chameleon-like Nina Burgess, who changes her identity in trying to escape the attempt, her partial witnessing of it and Josey Wales. And there are others; numerous voices that together reflect on the oral history of the failed attempt and its tragic consequences.
The voices and the historical consequences have been favourably compared to Faulkner and Ellory. High praise, indeed and not without truth in my opinion. So why doesn't it get 5 stars? For me it was just too long. Parts of it meandered and could (in my opinion) have been omitted without damage to the whole. But for that, it would have got my nod.
Then, when it comes to the cast, it is hard to avoid superlatives. They are each excellent. The inspire dread, warmth, concern, waste, violence and vitriol, as required. The live with the ever present and grotesque violence and bring it to life and contrast the dying. Mostly, they make the novel real. I doubt that unless you were born Jamaican you could understand the slang of the streets as produced so vividly by James. Fortunately, you don't need to. Just listen (and keep the diazepam handy).
"Cannot follow story."
This is probably my own fault for trying to listen to a Man Booker prize winning book (rather than reading it) but I cannot for the life of me follow this story. The performance is full of slang and heavy Jamaican accents. This is appropriate of course but non Jamaicans may struggle! It was sounding like an interesting story so I may try and read it the old fashioned way.
"'Brief' it was not"
This is a lengthy highly complex read which examines a time in recent history from 1970’s to the 1990’s and portrays Jamaica as a brutal violent dangerous, corrupt and quite ‘mad’ a place in which to live.
It takes in drug gangs politics and ‘the singer’ Bob Marley. The author describes this book as mixture of fact, myth and his own imagination.
This book is set in Jamaica with some detours to New York and Miami.
I read that it took the author four years to research this work. Having read it I believe this to be true. Mr James has shown such attention to detail throughout.
I chose this book as it was on the Man Booker Prize list. I never heard of the author before, but am glad I do now.
Essentially having listened I would say this book was ideally suited to being an audiobook due to the variety of characters and their differing voices. Surprisingly it even moves into exploring death and at least one of the characters is a ghost.
I thought it was a unique book and couldn’t wait to get back to it every chance I got. Listening to the story from the perspective of varied characters brought reality to the events through their differing voices.
I now realise the hardcopy has a list of seventy-six characters mentioned by these narrators sorted by the location and time period where they appear to aid the reader. Their varied roles are stated within this description. I think this would have been so valuable to the audiobook reader and feel cheated that I did not have it.
I think that Audible should provide this maybe as an 'add on’ so reader can access it as needed. This would really have helped me initially to track the characters and understand their varied roles. Yes the chapters are read by different narrators so that aided understanding of the characters but a description of their role would have been invaluable.
The story moves at a fast and gripping pace. Many of these characters are seriously nasty and vile. The things they don’t think twice of thinking, saying or doing is unbelievable and downright shocking. Having said that the story telling and depiction of the characters is such that I was hooked from the beginning. Their humanity is laid bare for the reader to see and as such I often felt sorry for some of them despite their actions. Initially the Jamaican dialect was way too difficult for my comprehension so I had to slow it right down. In time I got used to it and of course it really added to the overall wonderfulness of the book.
Can you tell I LOVED and would highly recommend it
"Hope it wins Booker. "
Multiple characters/narrators, some Jamaican accents were more authentic than others but I got past the iffy ones because the story was so good. My favourite characters were the central characters - Nina Burgess, Jose Wales, BamBam and....I lie, every character, however briefly or leisurely drawn, was brilliant. This is a specifically Jamaican narrative about a particular time in history and the dynamic of a particular group of people. Still, it is an epic story and one with universal themes that will resonate. It is about island life and mentality, about history and the fact that the past cannot be extricated from the present, about politics or politricks, about the conflicting and conflating ambitions of the empowered and disempowered. I am going to miss this world and these characters and hope that someone has sense enough, and money enough, to make a film worthy of the book (without subtitles) Downloaded Kingston Noir, heard Marlon James short story and so impressed subsequently downloaded all Marlon James fiction titles available on Audible. This is a seminal Jamaican novel. Mr James deserves The Booker.
Great narration, the different voices worked well, though if you're not used to understanding a broad Jamaican accent (I can only assume they're accurate), it takes a little while to pick everything being said up.
I can understand why other reviewers have said the book is confusing...there's real mix of characters and many of the terms used are only explained in passing well after they're used ...for example a duppy is a ghost/bogeyman (I think) but that's not explained till ages after the idea is mentioned.
That said, the story is strangely 'moorish', I was struggling a bit about one-third the way through (the whole thing is just under 40 hours), but I found myself getting more engaged by the characters and wondering what would happen.
The language is great and the writing good, but having been through the 'experience' of the book (and it is an experience as well as a story I think), I'm glad I've 'read' it but not sure I'd want to recommend it to everyone.
"Audio version brilliantly captures the polyphony"
This novel is drive by voices, so listening to it makes perfect sense, and the actors here admirably present the various narrators. For someone who has little experience imagining Jamaican patois from seeing it written, the performances were invaluable in creating the atmosphere and authenticity of the setting (1970s Kingston to 1990s New York). The book itself is a whole world, fully imagined and presented in bursts (largely of gunfire). I don't normally like books with excessive violence, but here it was integral. It's certainly a hard read (or listen) and requires its audience to work behind the scenes piecing it all together. If you're looking mainly for entertainment or a straight-forward narrative, this is probably not for you, but if your idea of enjoying a novel is of having an unfamiliar world opened up to you like a living body of ideas and people, buy it now and prepare for 26 hours of concentrated experience.
"Engrossing and enjoyable"
Gets a bit boring in the middle but stick with it because it picks up again and the last twenty or so chapters are the best.
"Excellent powerful gritty dramatic"
This book weaves in and out of its characters whilst telling a hard hitting powerful , graphic true to life depiction of Kingston Jamaica in the 70's through to the 90's and the ghettos of New York in the early - mid 90's. fiction based on fact, this book works so well as an audio book due to the different accents of all the characters. An extremely wonderful piece of writing
"deserved the Booker"
This book is full of great stories, tied together in a compelling and really coherent way. The narrators read it brilliantly and bring it to life in a way that I don't think you would get by reading it yourself. Don't be daunted by the start, once you get used to the accents you'll appreciate how fresh and rich the writing is - best novel of the year for me and really well read.
"Spoiled by detailed violence"
I would have appreciated this more if half the length and the essential violence (that sustains the atmosphere and fuels the plot) left more to the imagination than described in the details here. It is a problem with audio books that it is difficult to skip passages that you can see on skimming that you don't want to read. By the end of the book I could see why this won the Man Booker prize
"Eye opener! 👍🏾"
Since reading Book of the Night women, which truly captured my imagination and transported me to that time. Ever since I've kept this author on my radar. Listening to audio books is definitely not my thing and I think this will be my last. The story is amazing and something I've always wondered about... the circumstances around the shooting of Mr Robert Nesta Marley, however, listening to the intertwined stories, jumping from character to character, was fascinating to me, I'm not sure how easy it was to follow by others, but if you've read Game of Thrones and the like, you should be ok. The only downfall was the narration, I am continually shocked that in this day an age in film and otherwise, authentic Jamaican actors and narrators are not used in the mainstream. Some of the accents did not come across as one of Jamaican heritage and that took me a while to get used to. I understand it has to be understood by a worldwide audience but as it is mentioned repeatedly in the story... There are Jamaicans out here that can "speak well" if I am wrong in my assumption, then I am wrong. Apart from that - it is a fantastic book! Well deserved of the Booker Prize.
"7 killings and 3 styles?"
Let me start by saying i enjoyed the book. Its a story thats told from multiple viewpoints, with different narrators giving their voices to build the soundscape. The perspectives are well drawn and reflect the personalities that Marlon has created well.
The story itself becomes more than just about "the singer" but draws in a broader history of the region, its politics, relationships, poverty, extreme violence, sex (and sexuality) and more.
Ii did find that the approach of the book changed. I felt as if Marlon could have written 2 or 3 separate books here, but chose to hold them in one. The subject matter wavered slightly and a sometimes was like hearing someone reading from a history book. Towards the end (no spoilers, don't worry), there was another mystery storyline that would warrant a separate book, or at least a short story or two, as one of the most interesting characters gets into a fix.
All in all, a good read. Gives real voices to a perspective often only seen in simple stereotypes. And a cracking storyline.
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