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Half-Blood Blues

A Novel

By Esi Edugyan

Half-Blood Blues
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2012,
    336 pages.

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There are currently 13 reader reviews for Half-Blood Blues
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Kathleen Z. (oxford, mi) (04/06/12)

Music is a language we all understand
Casablanca comes to mind, most specifically the last paragraph:

"Turn it", Thomas said, without smiling. "Play it again."

In the book the romance, is the love of music, which Hiero and Sid share, and like the song, "As Time Goes By" from the movie - there is some jealousy involved.

And in the end Thomas says to Sid, "I see you like it was fifty years ago. Exactly like that."

Must have been a favorite movie of Esi's. The banter between the characters along with the very descriptive writing is what makes this book.

No scriptwriters needed for the movie.
Cathy R. (Scottsdale, AZ) (03/14/12)

You gotta like jazz
I had a hard time with this book. Maybe it's because I have read so much on this period or maybe because I'm not a strong jazz lover. It ebbed and flowed but definitely worth reading.
Mary S. (Bow, NH) (03/01/12)

I love the blues - this book...meh
The dialogue in Half-Blood Blues is what makes the book worth reading. The story had ebbs and flows, making the book a bit tedious a some points, but slogging through those low points was rewarded by the high points. Throughout it is the dialogue and the capture of the times, reflected through the eyes of African-American jazz players, that provides the most enjoyment.

For people who enjoy historical fiction, this will give you a new look at Germany and France at the beginning of WWII.
Donna C. (Chandler, AZ) (02/29/12)

Superb
As a lifelong blues/jazz fan I couldn't wait to read this book after I read about it over a month ago. It was so well worth the wait! What a terrific book. Edugyan captures the tone, rhythm and feel of the characters, their dialog and narrative. And he creates a real sense of time and place, particularly the episodes that take place in Nazi Germany. Even so you can really feel the contrasting atmospheres of fear (of the Nazis) and freedom (of the music). This book superbly combines the worlds of music, history, mystery and literary fiction. I highly recommend "Half-Blood Blues". It is well written, original and enjoyable with memorable characters.
Carol J. (Isle, MN) (02/29/12)

Jazz in the time of Hitler
What an enlightening book regarding a topic that is rarely discussed. Edugyan provides an interesting insight to the world on Berlin and Paris in 1939-1940. What is one's life like if you are black and a jazz musician, both of which were verboten in that time. How does one behave when just who you are puts at risk. How do you treat your friends, who also put your life at risk?

The style of the book, with the jazz slang, deprivation during their time in Berlin and Paris, and the pervasive fear made for slow reading at times, but did succeed in putting you in the time.

This would be an interesting book club book, could generate and interesting discussion.
Janice C. (Hayward, CA) (02/28/12)

HalfBlood Blues
I found myself really drawn to this book in the first few chapters. It was a little slow at times. Edugyan is a passionate writer. It was very interesting reading about musicians during this era. I was drawn more to the music aspect than the characters. The ending was a little disappointing. Would I recommend it to my Book Club? I never gave much thought to Afro-Germans during the Nazi takeover of Paris, this book prompted me to do a little research. I liked the jive kind of language, it made me feel more connected to the characters.
Kathy M. (Neptune Beach, Florida) (02/21/12)

Half-Blood Blues
I have read many wonderful reviews of this book but unfortunately I can't agree. The plot developed very slowly and the slang they used was very unfamilar. I normally enjoy this type of novel immensely but this one just wasn't for me.
Vy A. (Phoenix, AZ) (02/21/12)

Half-Blood Blues
Berlin 1939. Paris 1940. Amidst this pre war-time setting, The Half-Time Swingers, a German-American Jazz band forms. This novel is a story of music and friendship and how both can fill men’s souls, especially the black “swingers” who form a bond that lasts a lifetime. It is also the story of a secret that lies hidden with Sid Griffiths for fifty years until he has to face his past at an unexpected reunion.

The relationship between Sid and his childhood Baltimore friend Chip is the basis of the story and their dialogue (banter), in what one review calls German American slang, is delightful to read, filled with witticisms and wisdom. For example, “Ain’t no man can outrun his fate,” or “when the past comes to collect what you owe.”
Author Edugyan also makes great use of figurative language that is fresh and vivid, such as, “...gents with faces as worn as old dish rags,”and “...his booming voice, when he talked, it overwhelmed the air, shoved it aside like oil in a cup of water.”

Jazz lovers will like the touch of Louis Armstrong in the story and history buffs will appreciate yet another perspective of Nazi Germany where jazz has been banned as degenerate music and blacks face their own brand of discrimination. A great title for a good read which I can recommend.
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