A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – Audio Book Review

This book follows a series of characters over many years, starting in the seventies around the time of the freedom concerts in Kingston, Jamaica and the time of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley, and through to the early nineties in the US. There is gang violence in Jamaica, drug dealing in the US, the dodgy US policies in Jamaica and Cuba with CIA and other involvement, there is love and lust and anger and release. It was wonderful to listen to it as an audio book as it is a very complex book that twists and turns across place and time. Having it narrated by a range of different voices worked beautifully to bring each section alive. I was not familiar with much of the history of the book, really I know very little about Jamaica, and it was fascinating to hear this story told. I grabbed the physical book from the library to check out a few passages (as several of the characters speak in Jamaican Patois and I’m a visual person, I felt the need to see the words written), and I found the afterword by the author enlightening. It was announced in 2015 that the book is being turned into a TV series by HBO, which would be amazing. I couldn’t find any further word on this. I hope that it eventuates.

A Brief History of Seven Killings won the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders – Book Review and Audio Book Review

Abraham Lincoln’s young son passed away while he was president, and he spent time in the mausoleum with the body, a very unusual thing to do during this time. There was documentation of Lincoln, of his life and behaviour, and on the death of his son, but apparently much was conflicting. Sanders has fashioned part of this book from quotes from these accounts, and then has created a mystical world full of the dead who have not yes passed to the afterlife.

In this way, it’s a hard book to explain, but as with much of Sanders’ writing, it’s poetic and mysterious and totally wonderful. When I read this, I started a couple of times, but kept putting it down until I could really dedicate time to reading it, because it took me a bit to get into the style. And then I just fell into it and loved it. Sometimes, I didn’t quite get what was happening, and some parts I still didn’t really get until I heard it on the audio book.

If you’re contemplating this book, I would highly recommend the audio book. The cast is amazing  (David Sedaris, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Rainn Wilson, Susan Sarandon and the list goes on) and the way it has been produced works so well with the text.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. Is it ‘why did I read this’? Perhaps it should be…

I chose this book because it won the Man Booker Prize last year, and I have found that I have really enjoyed several of the past winners. Bah. This book really annoyed me. It’s about a guy I don’t care about and a couple of his mates who I also don’t care about. Both his mates (one an ex-college classmate, the other a former teacher) are Jewish. He’s not. And then it rambles on for about three hundred pages about to be or not to be Jewish. And then it ends.

I just don’t get it. Perhaps I am not educated enough on the Israel/Palestine situation, or perhaps it is just that, by not being Jewish, I don’t get the difference between being Jewish and not. I don’t know. To me, people are people regardless of religion, race or education.

What I really don’t get is that everyone (being the reviewers on the back, plus several online reviewers) calls this a funny book. I don’t think I even cracked a smile – and, as anyone who knows me, I laugh at everything. Often, even not very funny things. Even Jonathan Safran Foer loved it, and I love his writing. His writing makes me laugh; his writing made me laugh out loud on my own in the foyer of a hotel in Estonia.

Having said that, according to the Wikipedia entry, most Amazon reviews are negative, suggesting that the reviewers and etc. are seeing something different to the average reader.

Have you read it? Did you get it? Did it make you laugh? Please comment, I’d love to know what you think.