What’s it about?
Plot-wise, A Brief History of Seven Killings is about Jamaica in the 1970s. It wasn’t a happy place. Two parties wanted to control the government. The CIA worried that the country would become communist, like Cuba. Gangs were aligned with both parties, full of not very nice people. The CIA was giving them guns. And Bob Marley was putting together a peace concert. There was a shooting at Marley’s home two days before the concert. This book posits what happened in the lead-up and in the fall-out to that shooting. Subject-wise, the book illustrates power relationships, what it’s like to live in a third-world country, how the CIA’s meddling in said countries screwed things up, and tries to pick apart why people do what they do.
Why should you read it?
An actual conversation with a friend yesterday:
me: Did you like Wolf Hall?
me: Oh. Then you’ll hate this one.
Because, despite the differences between 1970’s Jamaica and Tudor England, the books are largely about the same things: power, how do people get power, how do they keep power. It is dense and not at all brief. It’s also very violent. It, at one point, made me wish I had an English degree so I could properly analyze it. It’s good and important and educational but it is not entertaining. And that’s ok. I’m glad I read it.