Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies with a degree in literature. He currently teaches a creative writing course in Minnesota and is working on his next novel.
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 Reed Business Information.