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The Book of Night Women


The Book of Night Women Cover

ISBN13: 9781594488573
ISBN10: 1594488576
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Lynne Perednia, May 24, 2009 (view all comments by Lynne Perednia)
Lilith doesn't remember her mother or father. She has been raised by a slave, Circe, who pretty much does as she likes on a Jamaican sugar plantation as the century turns from 18th to 19th. The closest thing she has to a father, she thinks, is a slave who has lost his mind, and a few body parts, and who is reduced to living on a chain outside like a pitbull.

Lilith survives under the protection of head house slave Homer, a woman who runs the household with rigor and holds her back straight. She also often speaks in riddles to Lilith, leaving the girl to figure out for herself what evil lurks in every heart. Including, in harrowing episodes, Lilith's own.

That such a child not only survives, but works toward living life on her own terms as best she can, may not seem plausible. But Marlon James, a literature and creative writing professor, makes it believable in his second novel, The Book of Night Women. As her circumstances change, usually drastically and often for the worse, Lilith has little support working her way through the labryinth of feelings that confront a girl who becomes a woman, all the while never knowing true freedom to feel as she would like. Whether it's coming to terms for her feelings toward three important white men in her life or her sisters who seek revenge, Lilith has a lot to consider.

James has written a brutal, earthy and compelling narrative written in a dialect that forces a reader to either let the story flow over or to slow down and ponder what every nuance means not only to his heroine, but also to the reader. There is language certain to offend people, especially those who can't even handle Mark Twain. There is never getting away from the harsh brutality of what slavery means, of the cruel physical and psychological misery that one group of people can do to another group, or one individual to another. The inability of the white people in the story to not understand that they haven't earned loyalty and affection after the whippings and rapings, and worse, is but one part of this massive story that has repercussions to this day.

The beauty of this novel is that the author does not have to stand on a soapbox. The reality of the way people were treated speaks for itself. What James has done is to bring to vivid life the emotions and feelings of characters who are part of it without having a say in their place. And this includes some white characters as well as the slaves. That not many of the characters can handle their fate well does not mean their stories are not worth telling.
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Dian Francesca, March 4, 2009 (view all comments by Dian Francesca)
When I saw the title, and being a chef, I immediately thought it meant Pasta Puttenesca, which translates to ladies of the night. I make it all the time! The "ladies" would always mix up a batch for their "gentlemen friends", after a little roll in the snow, so-to-speak. The ingredients were cheap, and plentiful, and the recipe was quick and easy...just like the evening.
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Product Details

James, Marlon
Riverhead Books
Historical - General
Historical fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
9.25 x 6.13 in 1 lb
Age Level:

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Book of Night Women New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$26.95 In Stock
Product details 704 pages Riverhead Hardcover - English 9781594488573 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "A protagonist named Lilith drives the action in Marlon James' novel, so you can be sure that the male characters are destined for trouble....A master with an affinity for history and mythology bestows the ponderously premonitory moniker — which evokes a legendary demon queen — on a mulatto slave girl. Lilith grows up on a plantation in east Jamaica at the dawn of the 19th century. Early on, she learns that she possesses '[t]rue darkness and true womanness,' attributes that lead her to commit several acts of insubordination and eventually become involved in a slave rebellion." (read the entire Miami Herald review)
"Review" by , "Writing in the spirit of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker but in a style all his own, James has conducted an experiment in how to write the unspeakable — even the unthinkable. And the results of that experiment are an undeniable success."
"Review" by , "[H]ard to pick up, even harder to put down."
"Review" by , "Marlon James has written an exquisite, haunting and beautiful novel, impossible to resist. Like the best of literature, The Book of Night Women deserves to be passed down hand to hand, generation to generation."
"Review" by , "The Book of Night Women is a slave narrative, a story of rebellion, and a testament to the human heart in conflict with itself. It is a book of rip and rhythm. Of violence and tenderness. Of the healing glance in all the hatred. It reads like Faulkner in another skin. It is a brave book. And like the best, and most dangerous, of stories, it seems as if it was just waiting to be told."
"Review" by , "With The Book of Night Women, Marlon James proves himself to be Jamaica's answer to Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, and Zadie Smith. James imbues his lively, energetic prose and unforgettable characters with a precocious wisdom about love, race, and history that none of us has ever seen before, but that feels alive, even definitive, as soon weave read it."
"Review" by , "Pile them up, a Marlon James character says repeatedly, and Marlon does just that. Pile them up: language, imagery, technique, imagination. All fresh, all exciting."
"Review" by , "Marlon James's writing brings to mind early Toni Morrison, Jessica Hagedorn, and Gabriel Garcia MArquez."
"Synopsis" by ,

One of the Top 10 Books of 2014 – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Named a best book of the year by:

The New York Times

Chicago Tribune

The Washington Post

The Boston Globe



The Huffington Post

The Seattle Times

The Houston Chronicle

Publishers Weekly

Library Journal



BuzzFeed Books


Kansas City Star

L Magazine 

From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a “musical, electric, fantastically profane” (The New York Times) epic that explores the tumultuous world of Jamaica over the past three decades.

In A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James combines brilliant storytelling with his unrivaled skills of characterization and meticulous eye for detail to forge an enthralling novel of dazzling ambition and scope.

On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven gunmen stormed the singers house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but much has been whispered, gossiped and sung about in the streets of West Kingston. Rumors abound regarding the assassins fates, and there are suspicions  that the attack was politically motivated.

A Brief History of Seven Killings delves deep into that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaicas history and beyond. James deftly chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – gunmen, drug dealers, one-night stands, CIA agents,  even ghosts – over the course of thirty years as they roam the streets of 1970s Kingston, dominate the crack houses of 1980s New York, and ultimately reemerge into the radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Along the way, they learn that evil does indeed cast long shadows, that justice and retribution are inextricably linked, and that no one can truly escape his fate.

Gripping and inventive, shocking and irresistible, A Brief History of Seven Killings is a mesmerizing modern classic of power, mystery, and insight.

"Synopsis" by ,

“Epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. Its also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting — a testament to Mr. Jamess vaulting ambition and prodigious talent.”—The New York Times

From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes one of the years most anticipated novels, a lyrical, masterfully written epic that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s. 

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.

Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters—assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts—A Brief History of Seven Killings is the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the ‘70s, to the crack wars in ‘80s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the ‘90s. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a revealing modern epic that will secure Marlon James place among the great literary talents of his generation.

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