The Book of Night Women
By Marlon James
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594488573, 432pp.)
Publication Date: February 19, 2009
Read Marlon James's posts on the Penguin blog.
The Book of Night Women is a sweeping, startling novel, a true tour de force of both voice and storytelling. It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they—and she—will come to both revere and fear.
The Night Women, as they call themselves, have long been plotting a slave revolt, and as Lilith comes of age and reveals the extent of her power, they see her as the key to their plans. But when she begins to understand her own feelings and desires and identity, Lilith starts to push at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave woman in Jamaica, and risks becoming the conspiracy’s weak link.
Lilith’s story overflows with high drama and heartbreak, and life on the plantation is rife with dangerous secrets, unspoken jealousies, inhuman violence, and very human emotion—between slave and master, between slave and overseer, and among the slaves themselves. Lilith finds herself at the heart of it all. And all of it told in one of the boldest literary voices to grace the page recently—and the secret of that voice is one of the book’s most intriguing mysteries.
Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1991 with a degree in literature. His first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. James lives in Kingston.
“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.”—Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
“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.”—Colum McCann, author of Zoli and Dancer
“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 we’ve read it.”—Colin Channer, author of The Girl with the Golden Shoes
“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
“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