Nina, Kim, Dorcas, Millicent
November 29, 2016 1:49 AM   Subscribe

Finished reading A Brief History of Seven Killings the other day. Great book, but I've been bothered by a theory I'd been developing about one particular storyline. It's left unresolved and none of the reviews I've read have honed in on it, which, well, probably says that I'm overthinking it, but I have to ask. Details (and Spoilers!) below.

So the character Nina Burgess, who assumes various false identities throughout the book, has two scenes that don't tie in to the larger story:

Scene 1 - in Montego Bay 1979, she's posing as Kim Clarke, sleeping with an American engineer named Chuck, hoping he'll take her home with him. 'Chuck' informs her that his 'company' is leaving Jamaica but he can't bring her with him because he has a wife in Arkansas.

Scene 2 -in NYC 1985, she's Dorcas Palmer, a caregiver with a new client - Ken, who insists on going out to the Bronx, and who she describers as having extra straight posture, extreme attention, and a general ex-military air. Ken locks himself in her bathroom after finding the How To Disappear book, his son arrives to collect him, and the scene ends with the son and Dorcas debating whether she wants the job.

So, my theory, which I loosely played with while reading and fully formed after - are these both CIA encounters? In scene #1, they (or maybe just one operative) has been tracking her because they knew she was present the night of the shooting. 'Chuck' even says something cryptic like "I was watching you long before you saw me at the bar. " In scene #2, they've either been following her as she changed identities, or lost track of her and she popped back up, but either way they're soft recruiting her. In the final section of the book, she's working as a nurse in training but is always out of position checking up on the shooting victims of the gang wars.

Again, probably overthinking it and these were just character devlopment scenes, but they're given a lot of page real estate.
posted by mannequito to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hi - I didn't get a deeper CIA vibe at all. I thought Nina was a great character whose story told that of a woman from an poor country desperate to get out. Dating a married guy she doesn't even like in the hopes he'll be a ticket back to the US, and once she gets to the US she ends up in a job often filled by female immigrants - caring for an elderly person. I thought that section was especially sad- she and the old man seem to bond quite well but then his dementia kicks in.
Nina was never on the CIA'S radar- it was Josey Wales she was terrified would hunt her down.
posted by emd3737 at 2:53 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I didn't read those scenes that way at all, which isn't to completely say you are wrong, just that they are internally consistent without needing a CIA layer.

And if that was the case, I think it would have been hinted at in some of the CIA scenes. James is all about creating those linkages throughout the book, so I would expect to see them if your theory was correct.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:50 AM on November 29, 2016

I can buy the first scene as being consistent with a CIA tie-in, but not in a particularly meaningful way, just as another perspective on the presence of American CIA agents in Jamaica.

For Ken, I thought his malady was a literary echo of Nina's own changing personas - for Ken, she will be a new person every day, just as she has been a different (new) person in each chapter of her life.
posted by Aubergine at 3:10 PM on December 1, 2016

« Older Has anyone ever received disability accomodation...   |   How to seduce my boyfriend? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.