First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
On December 3, 1976, two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, seven gunmen stormed the singer’s house. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but which has been whispered, gossiped, and sung in the streets of West Kingston. In A Brief History of Seven Killings, novelist Marlon James re-creates that dangerous and unstable time as he deftly explores the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – gunmen, drug dealers, one-night stands, CIA agents, even ghosts – over the course of thirty years. The result is a gripping and irresistible novel of power, mystery and insight.
Today is a National Holiday in the Philippines so it is an extra day to read one more book. The damp weather which has been prevalent this week also created the perfect and cozy atmosphere for a reading adventure. I can simply tuck in my bed or sip a warm cup of coffee. I love these rainy days. Oh yes, it is rainy season here in the Philippines; we only have two seasons, the dry and the wet season. HAHA.
Currently keeping me company this bleak is Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. This is my first venture into the renowned Jamaican writer’s works. I think this also marks my first venture into Caribbean literature; earlier this year, I also bought a copy of Maryse Conde’s Crossing the Mangrove. Whilst I have encountered Conde’s name during last year’s Noble Prize in Literature race, I have already heard of James when he won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Despite the hype, the book didn’t stir as much interest in me. I am not sure what tipped my attitude in favor of the book. I guess it has something to do with that curiosity we are all innately built with. When I encountered the book in my local bookstore about three years ago, I picked it up sans looking at the synopsis or sans any iota on what the book is really about. Maybe the title already implies it? Maybe not. Since the book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a very long time, I finally decided to include it in my 2020 Top 20 Reading List.
A Brief History of Seven Killings transported me to Kingston, the pulsating Jamaican capital casual readers often associate to Bob Marley and the Rastafarian culture. The book is actually sent in 1976 Kingston, and Marley was mentioned in the narrative. I am not sure if he will play a seminal role in the narrative although I see him being mentioned in the synopsis and in the chapters I have read already; the book is nearly 700-pages long and I am just about 200 pages down.
The story is narrated by various characters – a CIA agent, a drug dealer, a daughter, and even a ghost! These varying and distinct voices adds tone and texture to the story. However, these alternating perspectives tend to muddle the story. I often find myself second guessing on the direction the narrative is going to take. I surmise this is because I am still at the earlier phases of the story. James is introducing the characters and setting up the stage for an explosive and pivotal scene. I am crossing my finger for that.
There are a lot of political nature embedded in the story. The presence of a CIA agent is a dead giveaway. The way they intervene and interfere in a country’s political affair was briefly mentioned. Some of the tactics they employ were discussed in a conversation between Barry Diflorio and Louis Johnson. The tactics are so subtle that those involved think and believe that their actions were instigated by them and not by an outside force. There is, however, no way to ensure the veracity of these claims. Again, this is a work of fiction. Communism and communists are also subjects that were discussed along the course of the story.
For a 700-page story, I am expecting a lot. Apart from politics, I have gleaned some vestiges of mystery, a bit of fantasy, a bit of the local atmosphere, and the exploration of some elements of Jamaican culture. I know that I have barely made a dent so I am expecting that the actions picks up soon. I sure have a high hope for the book. I am just hoping it won’t disappoint.
How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!