Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

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Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

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Jul 27, 2011, 8:50am

This thread is for discussion of Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, which was selected for the 2011 Booker Prize longlist.

Jul 27, 2011, 12:28pm

Jul 27, 2011, 12:59pm

This one sounds interesting, so I'm looking forward to comments on it.

Sep 9, 2011, 9:05pm

I have purchased this one via Abe books via The Book Depository. I am not sure when I will get to reading it, but I sucked myself into purchasing it! ;) It's Canadian after all - now, 2 - I' d better read your review. To be honest, it sounds quite interesting.

Sep 9, 2011, 9:07pm

Great review, elkiedee. Thanks!

Sep 14, 2011, 4:25pm

Here's my review of Half Blood Blues:

Sid Griffiths is a octogenarian former jazz bassist of modest talent and reputation, who was enjoying the peace of retirement in his home town of Baltimore until an old friend and fellow jazz man, Chip Jones, informs him that they have been invited to Berlin to attend a festival in honor of their late friend, the legendary trumpeter Hieronymous Falk. They and several others played together in the Hot-Time Swingers band, which was popular in Berlin in the 1930s until the Nazis deemed that jazz music was a form of degenerate art. As African-Americans, Sid and Chip were also viewed unfavorably by the fascists, but Hiero, born to an African father and a Aryan mother, was despised even more.

By 1939 the band is no longer allowed to perform in Berlin, and the mostly non-Aryan band members find themselves unable to find work. Rescue comes in the form of Delilah Brown, a stunning singer who has been sent from Paris to Berlin by Louis Armstrong to recruit the boys to play in his band. Sid is enraptured by Delilah, but he becomes jealous when she seems to pay more attention to the young Hiero. As the boys are deciding whether or not to go to Paris they find themselves in even more danger, as they fall afoul of local Gestapo agents. They and Delilah are forced undercover, to avoid deportation to concentration camps, as the opportunity to escape progressively dims.

Half Blood Blues was a tedious and painful book to read, due to its use of black vernacular throughout the characters' dialogue and Sid's narration, the often inane and sometimes juvenile conversations between the band members, and the petty jealousies that Sid and Chip displayed throughout the book. The descriptions of the characters' troubles in Berlin and harrowing escape to Paris were gripping, but those were the only portions that I enjoyed. I was very interested in this story of black jazz musicians in Germany and Europe preceding and during World War II, but this was another disappointing novel, one that should never have been included in this year's Booker Prize longlist.