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 ?

Booker longlist reaction

Well susan Hill had promised a fresh list of books for the longlist .But in my opinon what we got was ground shaking .Books new to most people ,the shock wave on twitter was noticable as people tried to find out more about the listed books ,also why the list was so different than peoples ideas of what shoulkd have been there .The fact smaller publishers have been picked is good thing in this modern age .

• Julian Barnes  The Sense of an Ending
• Sebastian Barry On Canaan’s Side
• Carol Birch Jamrach’s Menagerie
• Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers
• Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues
• Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats
• Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger’s Child
• Stephen Kelman  Pigeon English
• Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days
• AD Miller Snowdrops
• Alison Pick Far to Go
• Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb
• DJ Taylor Derby Day

so there it is, of the titles I ve read none I have two on my tbr pile ,a quick trip to library yesterday came back blank .Some of them aren’t out yet thou  .From the list the ones that grab my eye are Patrick Mcguiness the last hundred days set in the dying days of the Ceauceaus regime in Romania from the small publisher seren ,snowdrops Andrew miller set in Russia a thriller about a young Englishman struggling with the temptations of new Russia .I ve sister brother and strangers child on tbr ,I m not sure what others I will read maybe wait to see what makes shortlist .Is this shake up of longlist a good thing ,in some ways as there are a number of smaller publishers on the list ,but you have to question why so many people got so few books that are on the list right .Are we seeing the depth of English writing or a small choice by five judges set on shaking the booker order  for the sake of it ? I don’t know the answer as many of you know I am more interested in translations and world lit ,but always look at the booker as the barometer of what is good or interesting in English at the moment .so in that respect I think they have got it wrong and a good few books have missed out on the longlist .

What are your thoughts ?

Did the booker need shaking up ?


my booker predictions 2011

well tomorrow we find out who has made the longlist of the man booker prize 2011 .I was going do this earlier this evening but 2 hour power cut meant unable to blog so I ll fly through the book I ve heard about and reviews I ve seen over last few months ,so  i ll give you a baker’s dozen –

At last – by Edward St Aubyn –

the latest in the partrick Melrose series to pay respects to his mother and another look other his past .

Strangers child by Alan Hollinghurst –

two poets lives and works tracked from 1912 to present day a look at what being a poet means and how history decides what there poems mean .

Wish you were here by Graham swift –

jack deals with his brother’s death in Iraq a look at modern english lives .

The girl in the polka dots dress by Beryl Bainbridge –

A girl from Kentish Town heads in 1968 to the cauldron of the US with Martin Luther King dying ,maybe one last chance for Beryl hey .

Pure by Andrew Miller –

Set in 1785 a young man must clear an old cemetery whilst watching his own back .slightly different hope it makes list one that appeals to me .

Last man in the tower by Aravinda Adiga –

a building needs to be cleared in Bombay but there is one man stopping this as old and new india clash .

Waterline By Ross Rasin

well I ve heard Joe from Penguin go on about this book ,as a friend of my father owned a shipyard this one appeals to me ,it is about Mick his journey out of the shipyards ,about love and loss .

The forgotten waltz by Anne Enright  –

Gina has a love affair with Sean ,passion desire and memories all crop up in this book it seems .set in Dublin ,has to be a Irish writer on booker list .


Other people’s money by Justin Cartwright  –

the fall of a family owned private bank told from two generations point of view ,Justin sold this to me when I heard a radio interview ,seems to catch the spirit of the time a bit .

We had it so good by Linda Grant –

I think every blog review of this book has been positive ,set in 1968 it follows middle class people over the next forty years ,through main character Stephen an American living in Britain .

Cedilla by Adam Mars Jones –

The continuing story of John Cromer from his earlier book ,I ve this on my tbr pile like fact main character has a disability something you don’t often see in books .

London Triptych by Jonathan Kemp –

three mens lives and affairs in 50’s london against a backdrop of a gay underground and art world .This sounds different to me when I read a few reviews .

Embassytown by China Mieville –

Well I ve put this on as I m feed up of the whining from sci-fi readers that he misses the list year after year and the fact it does sounds like a great read ,an alien world humans modify to communicate with the life form on the planet .It seems to be about our lives using the alien world as a tool for our world and its problems .






Cheating at canasta by William Trevor

Source – personnel copy

William Trevor without doubt in my humble opinion is the greatest living short story writer .he has won numerous awards and has been nominated for the booker prize on five occasions without winning a shocking oversight .He lives in Devon ,since the 60’s .His stories often touch on the outcasts and edges of society .

This collection of short stories was published in 2007 .if there is a theme to this book it is maybe loosely cheating ,a man in an italian cafe cheats at canasta ,a mechanic cheats some Spanish  tourists out of money for a repair  and in another a man returns to his home village from England as he felt cheat out of his inheritance ,but also a huge dark secret that he needs to see the priest about !Trevor wonderfully spins the human condition with all its foibles .We also touch on the very darkest people in society a paedophile on the lookout for a victim is a very harrowing story ,we also meet street gangs .These stories show that even thou he was nearly eighty when he wrote this collection ,he still has the finger on the pulse of  everyday life .

He was a shabbily dressed man ,almost everything he wore would having been abandoned by someone else .He had acquired the garments over a period ,knowing he intend to make this journey -the trousers of what had been a suit ,brown pin-striped ,worn shiny in the seat and at the knees ,a jacket that had been navy-blue and was nondescript now ,the khaki shirt he  wore an item once of military attire .

a bit from men of Ireland as Prunty returns to Ireland

As the quote shows Trevor has a great eye for detail .Like the other books by him I ve read I love his stories he always surprises me ,which is a real talent .all the stories in the collection are strong enough to stand alone which is good oft in collections by other writers there are a couple of what might be called in music terms filler tracks .this is like Bob  Dylan’s blood on tracks or Neil young harvest 100% wonderful from start to finish but also a collection that be great to visit again .I read this few weeks ago but held it for Mel of the reading life Irish short story week

Have you read Trevor ?

Who is your favourite short story writer ?


Well the telegraph light up a minute ago and with a dash ,dash and a dot dot the 1910 booker winner was announced and sent to Winston towers down the wires .well shock of shocks the favourite the history of mr Polly by Wells has lost ,and the winner is Howard’s end ,a wonderful book about class ,this new group in the capital called Bloomsbury based round the Bloomsbury area of london ,centre on the Woolf’s .The book follows three families and there different social standings .A great and worthy winner for booker 1910 .

Also in the club on the paper table I read the Manchester Guardians Not the booker winner for 1910 ,their young feature chap Samuel Jordison runs this the readers write in with a book that missed the cut and the chaps at the guardin=an add it up and make a shortlist and announce the winner the same day as the booker winner and this time it is a truly worthy winner clayhanger by Arnold Bennett ,this story and coming of age of Edwin Clayhanger set in Arnold’s hometown of stoke and the five towns around it ,he was quoted as saying well at least my northern friends recognise me ,having missed booker cut this time .

now I look a hundred years hence and may see a book called C by Tom Mccarhthy winning maybe .

C BY TOM McCarthy

This is my second booker shortlist read this year ,Tom McCarthy is considered the next big thing in british lit and this book as very technically clever .Well I enjoyed it ,at times found it very hard going .The book centres on the life of Serge Carafax a young man born on the cusp of a new century the twentieth century ,he is born ,to a family working at a deaf school,he soon becomes fascinated by the new technologies that are appearing and becomes a expert in radio and electrical equipment this sends him through the main events in the first few decades of the twentieth century ,he loves the planes in the first world war and ends up getting caught and made a prisoner and at a prisoner of war camp getting involved in escape plans and caring for his fellow prisoners ,post war he ends up in the swinging twenties of london and the drug scene ,then becomes a wireless operator for what was the internet of its day as it was a   front row technology of the day and led many a young man like Serge to the far-flung corners of what was the British empire then ,well that is the simple overview of the book .but this book is like a cryptic crossword each page has layers and meanings ,there is a great deal of symbolism about technology and its place in society,war drugs ,travel many things cleverly woven .McCarthy has firmly placed himself in the top echelons of British writers .

The static’s like the sound of thinking .Not any single person thinking ,collectively ,It’s bigger than that, wider – and more dialect .It’s like the sound of thought itself,its a hum and rush .Each night ,when Serge drops in on it ,it recoils with a wail ,then rolls back to the crackling waves that carry him away ,all rudderless ,untill his fingers nudging the dial , can get some traction on it at all ,

opening of chapter 3 shows Serges connection with radios and there workings .

I m not going say I got this book completely I d be lying, it is a book that maybe takes a couple of readings to break its shell completely but as my first reading I loved it ,echos of Pychon and Bolano as it says on the cover maybe even early Ballard in places .If it wins the booker it will be a worthy winner . This is my last of the shortlisted reads ,Did have Finklers question from library but they wanted it back ,so will read at a later date .



the long song by Andrea levy

Andrea grew up in britain after her parents came here in the empire windrush in the late 40’s ,a subject she touched on ,in the novel small island .She didn’t start writing til here 30’s and since has had a rise with every novel this is her fifth and is shortlisted for the booker .The novel drifts us back to the Jamaica of the 1800’s where slavery is still in place and the slave July we follow her life from her birth after her mother was raped to her entering service for a vicious english women Caroline Mortimer ,where she is beaten and stab with pins and other things on a regular basis for no apparent reason or little provocation .Meanwhile in the outside world there are great changes underfoot rebellions and just glimpses of freedom for the slaves . to the arrival of a new overseer with a new way of treating slaves ,kindly with is slightly more liberal view of doing the work .

July threw herself upon the floor ,held the dress aloft and yelled, missus ,the dress spoil! Them mash-up your dress .It messed up ,it mess up .Oh beat me ,missus come on beat me ! the dress spoil ,spoil,spoil come tek a whip and beat me I beggin you missus .

July expecting a beating from the violent mistress caroline .

Now this is written in a style of Jamaican english or patois that was spoken by the slaves a relaxed english .July comes across as a highly realistic character that has a hard life and you feel her injustices and triumphs along the way .Levy seems to want to bring some of her own family’s history forward and had done maticlious research for this novel in Jamaica and the uk looking back on records of the time and the slaves life ,Which she described in an interview I heard as a hard task as there was a lot of side information number jobs etc but little or none on how the slaves felt at the time .what Levy has done is capture a young girls struggle to womanhood in the most difficult of circumstances .A book for anyone interested in the history of the time and how slaves lives really were on the plantations

This is one of this years booker shortlist .

booker shortlist !

well the booker been announced and here are the 4 shortlisted books for the booker ,and what a bunch they are sure see a rush in sales for them .


A story of a family the fourth novel from this up and coming writer ,his last room with a view was shortlist for the booker but only made shortlist .is the bookies favourite at moment !


A comic novel by the past booker winner ,we follow Alfred Pollys story in this funny novel


An interesting character from Wodehouse a new young novelist with a grand hand at comic writing ,all about mike and psmith also a dollop of cricket thrown in for a good turn .


A novel about david crawfords adventures in spouthern africa during the recent zulu uprisng a novel about our empire ,the judges said

Well  thats the booker 1910 shortlist what do you think ?

will these books stand the test of time ?

lost booker shortlist 1970


Earlier in the year a long list was published for the books that missed out in 1970 On booker prize when the date was changed .

The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden (Virago)-this book is about a 19-year-old growing up in middle class family .
Troubles by J G Farrell (Phoenix) this was the first in the trilogy ,the second siege won the booker in 1973 .It was made in to a film in 1988.
The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard (Virago)-Hazzard won the miles franklin award one of australis most prestigious awards in 2004
Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault (Arrow)-a book about Alexander the great Renault wrote both fiction and non fiction about Alexander
The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark (Penguin)-best known for prime of Jean Brodie ,this was one of her favourite books .
The Vivisector by Patrick White (Vintage)- White won the nobel prize in 1973 and the solid mandala is probably his best book .

these are the six announced today on the shortlist of them Farrell had won in 1973 with the siege of Krisnapaur ,Sparks had been shortlisted twice in 1969 and 1981 ,Bawden had been shortlist in 1987 .the other three White ,Renault and Hazzard had never been shortlisted .I only read books by Sparks ,White and farell but not the ones on the list .`

have you read any of these books ?

book booty

book booty

yesterday i went to my local book sale at the church hall not been for a month so thought there may be some new items and there was  here is what i got –

  • hotel du lac by Anita Brookner – don’t know a lot about this other than it won the booker in 1984 ,i want to broaden the amount of female writers i read and this seems to fit that category .
  • Montaigne ,his essays – after hearing Rob at Rob around books wax lyrical about this and the Sarah Bakewell autobiography I decide to see what the fuss was about and this seemed a nice primer for that .
  • after Hannibal by Barry Unsworth – on the whole i m not a big fan of historic type fiction ,Barry Unsworth has done well in booker and the synopsis on the back of this novel sold it to me .
  • along came Dylan by Stephen Foster – i read the first book Stephen wrote about Ollie so when saw this it was a must buy for me ,i like real life dog stories hence my blog name Winston is my beautiful dog .watching Marley and me on the tv made me want a new dog book to read .
  • bound for glory by Woody Guthrie -I m fan of Woody’s music having got in to him via Billy Bragg and Dylan  .I knew about this book and would have got it at some point ,it follows woody through the depression and dust bowls across america .
  • night at the circus by Angela Carter – hands up never read her so got this to make up for that .

not bad for two-pound hey !

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

January 2020
« Dec    


%d bloggers like this: