Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Review: "The Book of Night Women" by Marlon James
To say that I came into The Book of Night Women, the second novel by author Marlon James with high expectations would be a huge understatement. His third novel, the Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings rocked my Wrestlemania trip out west, and became, along with Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog (whose sequel, The Cartel, is bound to do the same this year when I head to Dallas on Thursday) the best book I read last year. My only misgiving has to do with, as I found out, our fundamental differences in politics, but I didn’t let that stop me. So I was surprised when this book, much different than his first one in time period and subject matter, turned out to be just okay, instead of really good or really bad. His use of language is unparalleled, which made some of the book’s other glaring weakness disappear while I moved ahead. The book, instead of focusing on many voices, just has one as we follow Lilith, a slave in a Jamaican plantation who is caught up between the brutality of her life as a slave and her so-called destiny linked to a group of women who are planning a bloody revolt. It is hard to follow, one of the casualties of only have one voice throughout, but she does at one point fall in love with a man named Robert Quinn as well as English literature, all of which drives a bloody wedge between those she works alongside. Like A Brief History of Seven Killings, James’ prose, profane yet beautiful, violent yet introspective, is a thing to behold, and like I said, elevates this material, which is not very original. It becomes part prose poem, part angry cry, and, while not intentional, part snuff film. Not nearly as good as his more famous third novel, but still something to dive in and open your heart for.