Saturday, September 27, 2014



"Dead people never stop talking and sometimes the living hear."
I'm really torn with this one. I feel like I should possibly try reading it again. The book is a big sprawling epic that explores a huge colorful cast of fictional characters, all linked to the aftermath of the true life 1976 assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley (known only as "The Singer" right before the Smile Concert in Jamaica.

It's a really fascinating story, well-researched and well-conceived by brave up-and-coming Jamaican author Marlon James. It's actually one of the most interesting stories I've read in a long time, told over a span of decades, and combining politics, gang violence, drug wars, journalism, and the CIA. The characters are interesting and detailed, the star of the show being Nina Burgess, who starts in the story as a lost young woman who once had a one-night stand with the singer and at the beginning is now lingering outside of his Jamaican mansion hoping to confront him about her unborn baby and possibly get some child support. But by the end of the book she will have evolved numerous times in a grand character arc.

So why a C+? The book and the prose becomes bloated and tedious. Marlon James, undoubtedly a great writer, seems enamored by his own writing and seemed to be flexing his muscles for all to see all throughout the book. His prose has loads of poetic style but sometimes it got distracting. But every other reviewer who's read an advanced copy seems to love it. Maybe I shouldn't have started reading this while in the midst of a big job that takes up 12 hours a day and took up most of my attention. That could have really affected my patience. Because although I really enjoyed the story itself and its characters, I felt bogged down with the writing, which wasn't helped by the fact that there were a ton of constantly switching POV characters (there's a cast list of about 70 characters at the start of the book!) . I really wanted to like this more but it might have been the wrong time to read it. I will try to tackle it again. I get a sense that the book deserves it.

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