Half blood blues by Esi Edugyan

half blood blues

Source – review copy from Serpents tail

Esi Edugyan is a Canadian writer she grew up in Calgary ,she studied at university of victoria and John Hopkins her short stories have been in a number of anthologies over the last few years  .This is her second novel .The book has been on Book at bedtime in uk and was just named on the Man Booker long list for 2011 .

I ll ask you a question you ever wondered what happened to the jazz musicians you see in cabaret or read about in the Isherwood Berlin novels ? .Well if you have this is the book for you ,it follows a group of jazz musicians in pre war berlin then in Paris as the german army heads to there .so we meet Hieronymus Falk a Black German jazz musician ,Sid,chip and Delilah  his band mates ,the story has two strands the first the story in the late thirties and forties firstly in berlin then in Paris as the band try to escape the Germany army .The second strand of the story   is Sid and Chip returning to German well Berlin actually  and then Poland in the nineties to try to find out about the old band mate Hiero  ,he was the one that was left behind as he was arrested just as  the others from the band got visa’s and managed to escape the clutches of the German army .We see the tensions with in this group of friends as the all have different ways of copying with fear of getting caught by the German army as they descend on the french capital .In the nineties Sid and Chip relive the past and what happened in the first place ,this leads to old wounds being opened and in the end a wonderful twist in the tale .If you like WW2 stories or Jazz music this book will appeal to you .

It  was the four of us living here.Delilah , Hieronymus , Chip and me .Couple months before we’d spent the day nailing black sheets across the flat’s window ,but damm if that grim sun didn’t flood through anyway .The rooms felt to stale to sober up in . We needed to sweat it out in the fresh air get our heads about us .Ain’t been no breeze in weeks .

Sid talking about the gang living in berlin .

I enjoyed this book ,I like little corners of  World war two ,like this one and until I read it I never really thought about the musicians you read about in the Isherwood’s  Berlin novels in them they were just mention Esi has focused on them ,another thing I rather daftly didn’t think about was there were black German citizens in the thirties in Germany .I enjoyed the interaction of the three main characters ,the book slowly build the tension of  the german army arriving ,and the later story shows how when time has passed we are willing to open up .So is this a book worthy of the book list ,well in my humble opinion yes it is in some ways it has classic traits of a booker book so I can see this hopefully making the shortlist .

Have you read this book ?

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Linda1966
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 22:49:48

    Thanks for that Stu, as you know I’m trying to read the complete longlist and this is definitely one I’m looking forward to. Love jazz, especially trad, and WWI and II are a big draw for me, especially the stories of those persecuted. That sounds wrong, but it seems like something we should all learn more about and they are so moving. Linda x


  2. parrish
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 04:15:12

    Sounds good, for me on 2 counts, I like Books in &,around Berlin & have books that have a music background, so will check this one. thanks


  3. gina
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 05:31:07

    I was just reading a review of Isherwood’s Berlin Stories this evening. Would be interesting to read it with Half Blood Blues. Paris and jazz, yup, sounds like something I’d be interested in.


  4. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 11:13:38

    Thanks for this review Stu. I’d be hoping it makes the cut in the end because of the author’s Ghanaian name. And more importantly, because you think it should make it.


  5. Kelly
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 13:01:31

    I really want to read this one, it looks good 🙂


  6. Geosi
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 13:52:42

    All hands up for Edugyan. Thanks very much for breaking down this book to me. Interesting reading your thoughts.


  7. Kinna
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 18:06:57

    I’m not sure that I’m up to another WWII novel but the jazz angle makes it appealing. Thanks for the review.


  8. Trackback: Orange Reading: Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan | Iris on Books
  9. Trackback: Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan « JoV's Book Pyramid

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August 2011


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