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Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Half Blood Blues (2011)

by Esi Edugyan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,0877111,572 (3.69)1 / 227
  1. 10
    Oh, Play That Thing by Roddy Doyle (bsiemens)
    bsiemens: Taken at face value, both books are about the jazz subculture during the early 20th century: 'Half Blood Blues' is set in France during the 1930s & 'Oh, Play That Thing' is set in America during the 1920s. The writing style is also quite similar.
  2. 00
    Hitler's Black Victims: The Historical Experiences of European Blacks, Africans and African Americans During the Nazi Era by Clarence Lusane (goddesspt2)
    goddesspt2: Non-fiction work to complement Edugyan's novel
  3. 00
    Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje (ShelfMonkey)

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English (69)  French (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
3.25 stars

Most of this book is set in 1939 and 1940 in Germany and France. It follows a group of boys trying to make a jazz record. The book does switch back and forth to 1992, as two of those “boys” are making their way to Poland to find one who had gone missing during the war.

Not a very good summary, but then, I wasn't all that excited about the book, so am having a hard time coming up with a summary (and overall review!). I've been waffling between 3 stars (ok) and 3.5 (good). 3.5 because mostly it seemed interesting while I was reading, but as soon as I put it down again, I had no interest in picking it back up. Ok, so it's not a very helpful review... ( )
  LibraryCin | Apr 2, 2019 |
I am still not sure about this book. There were parts that had me hooked, and parts that I had trouble getting through. I have read a lot of "war books" but this was from a very different perspective. A group of jazz musicians are in Germany when the war breaks out. They are all considered undesirables, Jews, Black, degenerates etc. One of them is arrested in Germany, one joins another group, one enlists and the rest escape to France. Of course we all know that is not safe either as the Germans invade France. While trying to cut a record with Louis Armstrong, getting involved with a woman, and trying to keep alive, the story evolves about life during the war for this group of people. Definitely a book that makes you think. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Feb 5, 2019 |
A really interesting story but sometimes the pace was so slow it drove me a little nuts. ( )
  Katie80 | Oct 8, 2018 |
Really interested and well written. Hard to find a completely original Holocaust book- this is a great one! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
This book is absolutely entrancing... First of all, because of the subject matter -- Black jazz musicians in pre-war/WWII Europe. Second of all, because of the voice that it's written in. There's a natural rhythm to the prose, a perfect turn of phrase, that is absolutely a joy to read. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Though Half-Blood Blues may generally have been overrated by critics, it delivers an undeniably potent, soul-searching examination of friendship and trust. This may be a novel about beautiful music in an ugly and terrifying place, all those mellifluous strands of jazz amid the jingoism and cacophony of Nazism. But major historical and literary themes of the 20th century weave through too—racism and the plight of the outsider. The book also probes timeless and universal dilemmas: Should one invest in the notion that art can transcend socially constructed barriers? Should friendship be manipulated or even sacrificed on the altar of professional ambition?
Though "Half-Blood Blues" is a jazz book, its greatest strength lies more in the rhythms of its conversations and Griffiths' pitch-perfect voice than in any musical exchanges. ...[H]is dazed account of a band of weary survivors coalescing around Hiero's "Half-Blood Blues" is intoxicating enough to send you crate-digging through a record store's back room for anything like it.
The novel is truly extraordinary in its evocation of time and place, its shimmering jazz vernacular, its pitch-perfect male banter and its period slang. Edugyan never stumbles with her storytelling, not over one sentence. The few weaknesses in the plot, such as they are, simply don't matter.
added by geocroc | editThe Independent, Arifa Akbar (Sep 9, 2011)
What could have been a great Afro-German story has been sidelined..Despite the book's blurb tantalising us with promises of a black German experience, this novel is really about Sid and his version of events that led up to Hiero's arrest. It's also about his strained relationship with Chip. But as black jazz musicians they are already a familiar motif in American culture, and there's a touch of central casting about their portrayal. And while Sid's slangy vernacular is often charismatic, elsewhere the novel is problematic. It's hard to accept that both men would have chosen to live under the tyrannical regime of the Third Reich....
Much of the power of this unforgettable novel comes from the way its racial themes echo. It is very difficult to perceive and articulate the twisted skein of emotion that is black experience – and yet that is just what Edugyan manages to do with this brilliantly conceived, gorgeously executed novel. It's a work that promises to lead black literature in a whole new direction.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
"Paris, 1940. A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. He is a German citizen. And he is black. Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero's fate. From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris - where the legendary Louis Armstrong makes an appearance - Sid, with his distinctive and rhythmic German-American slang, leads the reader through a fascinating world alive with passion, music and the spirit of resistance. Half-Blood Blues, the second novel by an exceptionally talented young writer, is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art." -- Publisher.

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymus Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.

Fifty years later, Sid, Hieros' bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there's more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hieros' fate was settled.

Half Blood Blues weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don't tell your story , someone else might tell if for you. And they just might get it wrong.
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No descriptions found.

"Berlin, 1939. The Hot-Time Swingers, a popular German American jazz band, have been forbidden to play live because the Nazis have banned their 'degenerate music.' After escaping to Paris, where they meet Louis Armstrong, the band's brilliant young trumpet-player, Hieronymus Falk, is arrested in a cafe by the Gestapo. It is June 1940. He is never heard from again. He is twenty years old, a German citizen. And he is black. Berlin, 1992. Falk, now a jazz legend, is the subject of a celebratory documentary. Two of the original Hot-Time Swingers American band members, Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, are invited to attend the film's premier in Berlin. As they return to the landscape of their past friendships, rivalries, loves and betrayals, Sid, the only witness to Falk's disappearance who has always refused to speak about what happened, is forced to break his silence. Sid recreates the lost world of Berlin's pre-war smoky bars, and the salons of Paris, telling his vibrant and suspenseful story in German American slang. Half-Blood Blues is a novel about music and race, love and loyalty, and marks the arrival of an extraordinarily 'gifted storyteller' (The Toronto Star)"--… (more)

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Average: (3.69)
1 8
1.5 2
2 13
2.5 10
3 61
3.5 33
4 121
4.5 26
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