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The Book of Night Women Hardcover – February 19, 2009
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From Bookmarks Magazine
— The New York Times Book Review
“The narrative voice is so assured and the descriptions so detailed and believable that one can’t help being engaged. This is a book to love. . . . The Book of Night Women is hard to pick up, even harder to put down . . . and it deserves to be read.”
— Chicago Tribune
“The Book of Night Women is a searing read, full of blood, tears, and the stench of misery. It’s barbaric and ancient, but also familiar in the ways that people, consumed by their differences and divisions, easily overlook all that binds them— the desire for independence, the right to a civilized life, and the need to give and receive love.”
— The Boston Globe
“The Book of Night Women is not merely a historical novel. It is a book as heavily peopled and dark as the night in this isolated and brutal place. It is a canticle of love and hate.”
— Los Angeles Times
“[Marlon James] has carved strong and compelling female figures out of the harsh landscape of nineteenth-century British-ruled Jamaica . . . The Book of Night Women’s most poignant feature is James’s sensitive and layered treatment of the unlikely romance that blossoms between Lilith and her Irish overseer.”
— The Miami Herald
“When a novel casts a powerful spell, I find myself trying to locate where it got hold of me. I knew The Book of Night Women had me when I started waking at night to worry about its characters. . . . Enslave one people and all are trapped. That familiar concept wears flesh and bone in The Book of Night Women. It stands in the wake of Toni Morrison’s transcendent slave literature, and it holds its own.”
— The Cleveland Plain- Dealer
“James has given us an epic novel of late-eighteenth-century West Indian slavery, complete with all its carnage and brutishness, but one that, like a Toni Morrison novel, whispers rather than shouts its horrors.”
—Time Out New York
“The narrative voice, with its idiosyncratic inflections and storytelling warmth, will pull you into this outsized, marvelous account . . . James re-creates a world and brushes it with an element of the fantastic, but the emotions he conveys are all too real and heartbreaking.”
“If you pick up The Book of Night Women, you might lose a little sleep. The second novel from Kingston native Marlon James will have you flipping pages, thirsty for more story, late into the night. . . . Well crafted and beautifully written...it will stay in your mind for weeks to come.”
—The Washington Post
“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.”
“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.”
“With The Book of Night Women, Marlon James proves himself to be Jamaica’s answer to Junot Díaz, 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 as we’ve read it.”
—Colin Channer, author of The Girl with the Golden Shoes
“Marlon James’s writing brings to mind early Toni Morrison, Jessica Hagedorn, and Gabriel García Márquez.”
— Kaylie Jones, author of A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries
“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.”
—Chris Abani, author of The Virgin of Flames and GraceLand
“[An] epic narrative . . . as lyrical as it is hypnotic, even in the most violent passages.”
— The Independent
“A very nearly perfect work; an exquisite blend of form and content. . . . He bestows on the slave account authenticity and authority.”
— The Toronto Globe and Mail
Top Customer Reviews
At its core, this is a historical novel narrated by the slave, Lilith, and an unknown voice (which is revealed at the end) in heavy Jamaican patois and broken English. Orphaned at birth, she is raised by the barren and cruel concubine-of-sorts, Circe, and the insane, but caring, Tantalus. Puberty brings unwanted attention and in a brutal act of self-defense, the pretty Lilith is ostracized and placed in Homer's care at the "big house." Drama and more trouble ensue as Lilith vies for the master's attention and affection foregoing Homer's warnings and advice. Homer and Lilith's dialogue and experiences reveal the inter-/intra-relationships and the complex hierarchical strata and blended culture among slaves (house, field, Johnny-jumper), whites (British, French, Irish, Creole, owners, and overseers), Maroons, and Africans (Ashanti, Igbo, etc.). Homer, understanding the power of superstition, practices myal and inflicts an obeah-inspired method of control and revenge across the plantation.
The Night Women are a group led by Homer, a natural leader and planner, who has been plotting revenge and a multi-plantation rebellion with other like-minded women on neighboring estates.Read more ›
Despite the soul and gut wrenching imagery, this book is rhythmic in narration. The wording and melodic patois of the characters as well as the narrator provide a needed balance between the descriptive brutality. Additionally, the juxtaposition of a "love story', or what feels like 'love' to one of the central characters is sure to incite an internal debate among the reader. After completing this book, I found myself studying the face of the author on the back flap. For a minute I taught he might be an extra terrestrial or wrote this book supernaturally because the writing was otherwordly beautiful, perfectly beautiful.
If you are looking for a book that will satisfy every literary emotion you can conjure then this book is definitely for you. I may be going out on a limb when I declare that novice writers should use this book as a handguide to great literature, but in my not so humble opinion this is true. Once you read this book your opinion of great literature will never be the same.
It proved one thing to me,No matter where in the America's, North, Central or South America where slavery was practiced, it was the same, inhumane.
The things these women went through and still remained strong makes (to me) powerful reading.
I very rarely givee a book a 5. I have to find it super powerful to earn that rating. This was one of those books.
Second warning: Don't give up if you find the language difficult because I suspect within ten or twenty pages you will be pulled into the rhythms of the narrator who, by the way, does not reveal her identity until the very last sentence of the novel.
This is the story of slavery in Jamaica although it could just as easily be the story of slavery anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. But unlike a Toni Morrison view of slavery, this is far more expansive and far more graphic. The narrator's voice is one of outrage. And she is unrelentless in depicting the horrors of what happened to black slaves.
The other reviews provide much guidance. I simply want to express my appreciation for this novel although I am definitely going to read something very light next! So on to Carl Hiaasen's "Star Island" which is only four miles from where in live in Miami Beach!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Decidedly grim. A close up, in your face, experience of slavery in the cruelest slave state in history. Read morePublished 7 hours ago by writer/reader
Wonderful book, though it would be nice if I could read an alternate happy ending, so I can tell myself that the happy ending is the real ending.Published 2 days ago by Bailey
This is one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time. The writing is exquisite, if somewhat difficult because the entire book is written in a Jamaican patois. Read morePublished 23 days ago by Ren Reader
Set against the backdrop of a lush Jamaican sugar plantation in the early 19th Century, the novel follows the life of Lilith born to a slave mother, sired by a... Read more