The Book of Night Women (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Marlon James’s novel The Book of Night Women portrays the Montpelier estate, a sugar plantation in Jamaica where the slaves outnumber the white owners by thirty-three to one. Mindful of the 1791 takeover of St. Domingue by Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Jamaican history of bloody slave uprisings, the whites rule by terror. The barbaric treatment of the slaves includes such tortures as burning alive, chopping off the feet of runaways, brutal whippings for minor offenses, and other punishments too gruesome to describe. Slaves know that their lives are worthless in the eyes of their owners; they can be easily replaced at the slave market in Kingston. James’s unrelenting depiction of violence and explicit descriptions of sexual abuse of women have disturbed many readers and critics. However, as the author has said, historical records offer ample evidence of the savagery of plantation life of that time.
Into the enclosed world of Montpelier is born Lilith, the green-eyed daughter of overseer Jack Wilkins, who names her for the first wife of the biblical Adam. Lilith’s fourteen-year-old mother, whom Wilkins raped, dies giving birth in a blood-filled scene that portends the role of blood throughout the story. Six women slaves who are secretly plotting an uprising at night believe that Lilith was born with demonic powers that threaten danger. Patrick Wilson, the dead plantation master, gave these women names from Greek mythology. Five of...
(The entire section is 2065 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
The Boston Globe, Living Arts, May 12, 2009, p.4.
Chicago Tribune, Books and Media, February 14, 2009, p.1.
Essence, March, 2009, p.60.
Library Journal 134, no. 12 (July 1, 2009): 52.
Library Journal 134, no. 3 (February 15, 2009): 94.
Miami Herald, March 1, 2009, M6.
The New York Times Book Review, March 1, 2009, p.7.
The Washington Post, February 17, 2009, p. C9.
(The entire section is 43 words.)