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The Book of Night Women
Cover of The Book of Night Women
The Book of Night Women
From the WINNER of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings
"An undeniable success." — The New York Times Book Review

A true triumph of voice and storytelling, The Book of Night Women rings with both profound authenticity and a distinctly contemporary energy. 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 they see her as the key to their plans. But when she begins to understand her own feelings, desires, and identity, Lilith starts to push at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave woman, and risks becoming the conspiracy's weak link. But the real revelation of the book-the secret to the stirring imagery and insistent prose-is Marlon James himself, a young writer at once breath­takingly daring and wholly in command of his craft.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the WINNER of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings
"An undeniable success." — The New York Times Book Review

A true triumph of voice and storytelling, The Book of Night Women rings with both profound authenticity and a distinctly contemporary energy. 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 they see her as the key to their plans. But when she begins to understand her own feelings, desires, and identity, Lilith starts to push at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave woman, and risks becoming the conspiracy's weak link. But the real revelation of the book-the secret to the stirring imagery and insistent prose-is Marlon James himself, a young writer at once breath­takingly daring and wholly in command of his craft.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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    People think blood red, but blood don't got no colour. Not when blood wash the floor she lying on as she scream for that son of a bitch to come, the lone baby of 1785. Not when the baby wash in crimson and squealing like it just depart heaven to come to hell, another place of red. Not when the midwife know that the mother shed too much blood, and she who don't reach fourteen birthday yet speak curse 'pon the chile and the papa, and then she drop down dead like old horse. Not when blood spurt from the skin, or spring from the axe, the cat- o'-nine, the whip, the cane and the blackjack and every day in slave life is a day that colour red. It soon come to pass when red no different from white or blue or black or nothing. Two black legs spread wide and a mother mouth screaming. A weak womb done kill one life to birth another. A black baby wiggling in blood on the floor with skin darker than midnight but the greenest eyes anybody ever done see. I goin' call her Lilith. You can call her what they call her.

    Two thing you should know if you want to know her. As soon as Lilith born the womens regard her with fear and trembling because of them green eyes that light up the room, but not like sunlight. Nobody did want the young'un and the overseer Jack Wilkins had to make special arrangement for a niggerwoman to take care of the child, for the mens and womens did content to just leave her in the bush and make the land take her back. Another thing. Girl like Lilith don't born with green eye because God feel to be extra kind to nigger girl. This much was for sure, Lilith be the only girl to grow up in a hut calling a woman mother and a man father but she didn't look like neither.

    That woman. That girl. People recall when she was still a little pickney on the Montpelier Estate, them few years when a nigger not black, playing rounders with boys. She swing the club, clap the ball clear 'cross the field and make one run to all four base and beat the boys but couldn't understand when the wet nurse slap her and say that a good girl was supposed to make manchild win. Lilith cuss and ask if manchild can't win if girl don't lose and she get another slap. Some take as sign when at seven Lilith tell them same boys that is 'cause they have worm between them legs why they can't run fast like she and the girl get a swift kick from a passing niggerwoman who tell her that there be a grave already dug for the uppity. Lilith cuss under her tongue and say, Is you must go to grave since you already stink like dead puppy. Then there was the time when she get a well- deserved thumping for telling a white playmate from Coulibre Estate that she be a damn fool for saying that sky wet when everybody know it dry 'cept for when rain fall. White pickney and black pickney play all the time when they little, as if they be combolo, one and the same. But Lilith too spirited. Too spirited for a nigger girl black like pitch with legs too smooth for a slave and hair too woolly and lips too thick like fruit and eyes that seem robbed from white lady. A slave woman fate write before she born, but Lilith didn't grow up regarding them things for she live with Circe, the only nigger at Montpelier Estate who didn't work.

    People say that Montpelier Estate was so huge that you could tell you're there as soon as the wind start blowing to the east. In 1785, the year of many death but one birth, the overseer judge Circe too weak to do field labour. He give her a new hut that make from wood, not mud like what common nigger live in. He give her a man to live with in the Bible way. He also give her Lilith,...
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  • Library Journal

    February 15, 2009
    Lilith, the central character in James's story of slave life in 19th-century Jamaica, is a green-eyed beauty who kills the first slave driver who tries to rape her. This catches the attention of the Night Women, a secret society planning to burn down the plantation and murder its white owners. But in Jamaica it is never simply a question of black against white. There are deep ethnic tensions among the different African tribes, and black overseers known as Johnny-jumpers enforce white control throughout the island. No one can be trusted. There is almost palpable sexual tension as well, and in a broader sense the rebellious Night Women also include the British wives. Jamaican slavery was notoriously sadistic, and James is writing from a female point of view, describing female reactions to violent male aggression; prurience occasionally gets the upper hand. In addition, the entire story is told in 19th-century slave dialect that is evocative but quite difficult to read. Those looking for a more detailed investigation of slavery in the West Indies should try Madison Smartt Bell's Haitian trilogy, starting with "All Souls' Rising" (1995). For larger collections of postcolonial fiction.Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles

    Copyright 2009 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The Book of Night Women
The Book of Night Women
Marlon James
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