I was so excited to get my hands on A Brief History of Seven Killings. It is set in Kingston, a city I loved while I was in it and have greatly idealised since leaving. In fact, much of it is set in "my" neighbourhood - I can feel the heat, smell the piss and flowers, see "the Singer's" house (just two blocks from my old apartment) and hear the non-stop honking of the non-stop traffic. Half-Way Tree and Camp Road and Hope Road and the causeway to Port Royal are all a part of my happy memories of Kingston. Given all of that, and my reader-crush on Marlon James, and my former obsession with Booker Prize winners (since the rule changes I've lost interest), one could assume that my excitement was high - and as I've already said, it was.
Marlon James' writing is the kind you deep dive into and it swallows you whole in a humid, multi-sensory atmosphere, not unlike Kingston itself. I have devoured approximately 2/3 of the book in large bites. It has been a solace to again be surrounded in the poetry of patwa (spelling chiefs, don't correct that - Jamaican patois is patwa), and to be transported to the sweet memories of time and place. Yet, I'm not sure that I can finish this book.
There are two problems: a 704 page "brief" recounting of seven actual (novelized and speculative, but entrenched in fact) killings set in the most violent era of post-slavery Jamaica's history is in fact overwhelmingly vicious. As I've mention just recently, my brain - in particular my dreamscape - is easily influenced by what I read and watch, and it's important to the maintenance of my mental health that I not toss and turn and dream of hanged men and corrupt police and the most imaginative forms of violence and torture, particularly when I know that much of this is not James' imagination but how life was in Kingston at the time (and still is for some). That's the most pressing issue.
The second problem I'm finding is that there is not a single character in this book, 400+ pages in, that I care about. I love a velvet-rich atmosphere, a compelling story, and - always - brilliant word play. I like the changing points of view in the novel, and the disruption of the simplest good versus evil narrative. But I just don't care about any of these people. I need someone to like. It's not sad for me when these characters are killed off, and it should be. I want to feel that loss. It shouldn't be that the most interesting part of a story for me is looking for things I can recognize and remember.
I suppose I'll probably finish the book. I just wanted to share my thoughts in the meantime.