The Man Booker Prize
2015
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Marion James

Library Journal In his novels, Jamaican-born James centers on his homeland while giving larger scope to the African diaspora in caustically beautiful language. John Crow's Devil, featuring two battling MarlonJames Marlon James, Marilynne Robinson, Jane Smiley, Colm Tóibín | Barbaras Fiction Picks, Oct. 2014, Pt. 1preachers, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, while The Book of Night Women, about a slave revolt fomented by women, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. This third novel should be the charm that makes him a household name, partly because of the arresting subject. In a novel that moves from contentious 1970s Kingston, to crack-ridden 1980s New York, then back to a resurgent Jamaica, James offers a fictional investigation of the attempted assassination of reggae star Bob Marley just days before Jamaica's 1976 general election and only 48 hours before he was scheduled to play the Smile Jamaica Concert. You'll meet musicians and journalists, assassins and drug dealers, and even ghosts in what promises to be a wild ride.

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Publishers Weekly There are many more than seven killings in James's (Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner for The Book of Night Women) epic chronicle of Jamaica's turbulent past, but the centerpiece is the attempted assassination of Bob Marley on December 3, 1976. Through more than a dozen voices, that event is portrayed as the inevitable climax of a country shaken by gangs, poverty, and corruption. Even as the sweeping narrative continues into 1990s New York, the ripples of Jamaica's violence are still felt by those who survived. James's frenetic, jolting narrative is populated by government agents, ex-girlfriends, prisoners, gang members, journalists, and even ghosts. Memorable characters (and there are several) include John-John K, a hit man who is very good at his job; Papa-Lo, don of the Copenhagen City district of Kingston; and Josey Wales, who begins as Papa-Lo's head enforcer but ends up being a major string-puller in the country's most fateful events. Much of the conflict centers on the political rivalry of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP), which involves everyone from the CIA (which comes off as perennially paranoid about "isms," namely communism) to the lowest Jamaican gang foot soldier. The massive scope enables James to build an incredible, total history: Nina Burgess, who starts the book as a receptionist in Kingston and ends as a student nurse in the Bronx, inhabits four different identities over the course of 15 years. She is undoubtedly one of this year's great characters. Upon finishing, the reader will have completed an indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years. This novel should be required reading. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Book list *Starred Review* This lengthy novel by the acclaimed Jamaican author of The Book of Night Women (2009) is a densely imaginative fictional retelling of the 1976 assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley (The Singer) and its aftermath. It is far less about music than about Jamaican (and international the CIA is implicitly engaged) politics and its gangs, inextricably linked. The book is, as a result, nasty, complicated, violent, and profane. That it is also beautiful is testimony to author James' immense talent. Despite the lack of suspense (one knows Marley survives, though James handles the ensuing events deftly), James keeps the pages turning. He handles a complex cast of characters with disparate viewpoints and voices (literally) that, although daunting to readers unfamiliar with the country's culture and speech (No star me no know a who that?), will please and delight (and shock) many but should impress all diligent readers. This is a breakthrough novel not only for the author but also for Caribbean and world literature. The Kingston milieu (and its extensions, including New York) is made horrifyingly believable; the patois is rhythmic, slangy, and often quite funny. This is a unique, difficult (the latter portions less so), and very worthwhile reading experience.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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2014
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Richard Flanagan

Library Journal One of Australia's most celebrated authors, Flanagan has garnered multiple awards for his fiction (Wanting), nonfiction (And What Do You Do, Mr. Gable?), and directing (The Sound of One Hand Clapping). He has an uncanny ability to write literary prose with journalistic exactness set against cinematic landscapes. Taking its name from a collection of haiku poems by Matsuo Basho-, this novel is set at the end of World War II in a Japanese POW camp. Australian prisoners, led by physician Dorrigo Evans, are assigned the grueling task of building the Thai-Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway and famously depicted in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai. (Flanagan's father had been a POW and worked on the railway.) Amid daily violence, disease, and death, both the prisoners and the guards search for a sense of normalcy as they remain duty-bound to hierarchy. As the war ends and soldiers return to civilian life, each struggles to find meaning outside the routines of imprisonment. Dorrigo, in particular, has trouble reconciling his status as hero with the unshakable trauma he's experienced. VERDICT Utilizing prose and poems, Flanagan articulates the silent experiences and fractured memories of war. Not so much for fans of historical fiction, this narrative will instead appeal to the deeply introspective reader. [See Prepub Alert, 2/3/14.]-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Acclaimed Australian author Flanagan (Gould's Book of Fish, 2002) here gives us surgeon Dorrigo Evans, from his Tasmanian childhood to old age, along the way having been a POW (as Flanagan's father was) on the gruesomely brutal building of the Siam-Burma railroad and having later achieved a fame he feels is undeserved. Flanagan handles the horrifyingly grim details of the wartime conditions with lapidary precision and is equally good on the romance of the youthful indiscretion that haunts Evans. This accomplished tale of love and war could have broad appeal, but the protracted particulars of the prisoners' treatment may put off quite a few readers. Evans performs at one point a major medical procedure under such primitive and inhuman conditions that it will make even tough-minded readers cringe in disgust. Though much of this fine novel (whose title is taken from the Japanese poet Basho) is extraordinarily beautiful, intelligent, and sharply insightful (and even balanced the Japanese captors are portrayed, not sympathetically, but with dimension), it is very strong and powerful medicine indeed.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly From bestselling Australian writer Flanagan (Gould's Book of Fish) comes a supple meditation on memory, trauma, and empathy that is also a sublime war novel. Initially, it is related through the reminiscences of Dorrigo Evans, a 77-year-old surgeon raised in Tasmania whose life has been filtered through two catastrophic events: the illicit love affair he embarked on with Amy Mulvaney, his uncle's wife, as a young recruit in the Australian corps and his WWII capture by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. Most of the novel recounts Dorrigo's experience as a POW in the Burmese jungle on the "speedo," horrific work sessions on the "Death Railway" that leave most of his friends dead from dysentery, starvation, or violence. While Amy, with the rest of the world, believes him dead, Dorrigo's only respite comes from the friends he tries to keep healthy and sane, fellow sufferers such as Darky Gardiner, Lizard Brancussi, and Rooster MacNiece. Yet it is Dorrigo's Japanese adversary, Major Nakamura, Flanagan's most conflicted and fully realized character, whose view of the war-and struggles with the Emperor's will and his own postwar fate-comes to overshadow Dorrigo's story, especially in the novel's bracing second half. Pellucid, epic, and sincerely touching in its treatment of death, this is a powerful novel. 50,000-copy first printing. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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