STAR RATING: (★★★☆☆)
BLURB: ‘On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the next day, not to return for two years.’ Goodreads.com
PAGE COUNT: 685 (hardback)
I CAN’T FINISH THIS BOOK. I really really want to. And I feel like I need to apologise to someone because of it. But its like when I pick it up my body has an allergic reaction to it and I just want to throw it across the room. Reading reviews before I started the book, everyone spoke so highly of it, and it just didn’t match up to my expectations. Not to mention it is the WINNER of the 2015 Man Booker Prize. I struggled through with it until page 400 because of this reason – I thought that it had to get better, because this couldn’t be it, and as you all know, I am loyal to the judges of this book prize. But at the end of the day, if you’ve read 2/3rds of a book, and it is still failing to grip you, it’s just not worth it.
Here are the notes I made as I was reading it:
Page 200 – ‘I can appreciate what a complete feat this novel is, I’m just not enjoying it. Remarkable how he can just switch between such different vernacular. I really liked how short chapters are but I think I struggled overall because there isn’t much of a storyline and there is a lot of trains of thought’ < This is when I was feeling positive, that although I wasn’t hooked just yet, I trusted that I would be soon.
Page 300 – ‘I am still yet to be impressed by this book. It’s like walking through a fog filled forest, I struggled so much to keep up with what was happening, mixed in with the sometimes confusing use of patois Jamaican language – I feel completely lost in this gigantic book. Halfway through, and I’m still having dilemmas about whether to stop reading or not.’ < Flagging.
Page 400 – I have lost all energy to read this book and it feels like a chore. I have decided to cut my losses and give up. I hate, hate, hate not finishing books, but this just seemed like a waste of my time.
I think the reason I found this so difficult was because I felt alienated from the subject, as if everyone who had read it had completely understood it and I was alone in my confusion and bewilderment. The topic is difficult enough as it is as someone who has never encountered Jamaican history, and Marlon James clearly has such a handle of everything going on around this period (1970s/80s Jamaica) that he can so swiftly change through vernaculars and subjects and I couldn’t keep up; it was like the story was running away without me. One page he’ll be writing in traditional Jamaican patois as gang leader ‘Papa-Lo’, and one moment he’s writing as ‘Sir Arthur George Jennings’, who is a ghost. (I think). Clever and well-written? Definitely. A struggle? Completely.