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Twelve Bar Blues by Patrick Neate

Twelve Bar Blues

by Patrick Neate

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205757,211 (3.66)13



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Although at first I thought this was going to be a five star book and it won the Whitbread Fiction Prize, it ended up being a four star read for me, but was still very good.

This story is structured like a 12 bar blues (twice) with a prelude and a coda. Although most of it is set in the early and late in twentieth century, some of it is much, much earlier. It's a true blues story; poignantly tragic with some beauty interspersed here and there, and a story involving fate, tragedy and sorrow. It is set in Africa, New Orleans with smatterings of things in England, New York and Chicago. It interweaves the history of the origins of jazz in much of the part of the story about Fortis (aka Lick) and even includes some fictional scenes with some real jazz legends. It involves witch doctors, chieftains, prostitutes, singers, pimps, and of course Lick with his cornet. But his nickname doesn’t necessarily arise from where you think it might.

Given that this was Patrick Neate's debut novel, I think it’s possible that he has written better novels following it. Whether or not I read them won’t depend on whether or not he can write; he certainly can. Rather, it will depend upon whether or not they are all as tragic as this one.

Recommended. ( )
  Karin7 | Mar 19, 2016 |
Unfortunately all of the parts of this book that are set in Africa, both past and present, made me cringe. I cannot recommend it to anyone.
The only reason why I persevered and finished this book is because I am signed up to attend a discussion on it. ( )
  pengvini | Mar 30, 2013 |
A journey of identity and tracing roots takes us through Africa, New Orleans and New York amidst in an environment of music and cultural insights.

There were teasing references to some of the jazz greats and it was a nice musical journey from Africa to New Orleans. While the story starts with 2 best friends and a woman they both loved in 18th century Africa, the journeys their descendants take introduce us to the budding jazz movement and beyond. Unfolding the branches of the family trees through the generations and unraveling how they each descended from the 3 original Africans in the midst of all the music and tribal magic kept me turning the pages.

I would have liked more details rather than passing references to Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, King Oliver, and Fate Marable, but that would be my only criticism of this book.
4 stars ( )
1 vote cameling | Mar 1, 2011 |
This story centers on a jazz musician, Lick Holden, born and raised in New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th century. A man who's history (and place therein) has largely been forgotten except by his close relatives who share his destitute fate. His station in life has been the result of a zukulu (African witch doctor) curse imposed on his grandfather, and an overarching theme in the book centers on redemption from this act.

I loved the writing, but felt like the author got half way into the book and couldn't figure out how to properly bring the moving pieces together. Or maybe I just wanted a different type of ending that the author didn't provide. There were moments early in the book that I felt like this was a five star read but subsequently I just wanted the book to end. Nonetheless, it did give me a greater appreciation for the origins of jazz and the musical and cultural influence of New Orleans. ( )
  bchandler27 | Jan 21, 2011 |
Translation of the english original Twelve Bar Blues. A novel with several interwoven stories spanning three centuries and three continents. A tale of love, hate, magic, jazz, and the quest for one's identity. Good reading! ( )
1 vote FPdC | May 24, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014028656X, Paperback)

An adventurous, musically structured yarn that begins in 18th-century Africa and ends in present-day New York City, Twelve Bar Blues, British writer Patrick Neate's second book, was a surprise winner of the 2002 Whitbread Novel of the Year. For the most part Neate's prose is enthralling, beginning with a semihallucinatory tale of a jealous witch doctor's sabotage of his childhood friend. The latter is stolen by slave traders and sent to America; a century or so later, his descendant, Fortis "Lick" Holden, survives poverty in Louisiana to become an early pioneer of the jazz form. Over the course of Neate's story, we meet up with Louis Armstrong in 1920s New Orleans; cruise the slums and jazz joints of Chicago, London, and Africa; meet up with Tongo Kalulu, the love-conflicted chief of the Zimindo, a strong tribe; and travel to America with a black, retired London prostitute in search of her real father. Neate has a few lapses in judgment: several supporting characters don't ring true (one feels like a thin surrogate for the author), and the air goes out of his writing when he begins to think in clichés. But all is forgiven through the scope of this wild novel, with its inspired network of familial connections over many years and its deep mysteries that reach, like roots, through layers of American history and identity. --Tom Keogh

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:32 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Set in New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th century, and in Harlem in the present day, this is an epic tale of history and fate, love and friendship, roots and pilgrimage, jazz, music and everything in between.

» see all 2 descriptions

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