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Half Blood Blues (2011)

Half Blood Blues (2011)

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3.63 of 5 Votes: 3
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1846687756 (ISBN13: 9781846687754)
serpent's tail

About book Half Blood Blues (2011)

i'm glad this book didn't win the damn booker. that just means it wasn't a complete snoozefest. Vernon God Little? thumbs down. The Gathering? bleah. Wolf Hall? zzzzz. G.?? not his best. and from what i hear of this year's winner, the barnes? is not positive reviews, i'm glad this book escaped that label, because when this book is good, it sparkles like a thousand year old vampire in the sun. and i was halfway through before i realized this was an authoress. not that it matters, but there was something so authentic-feeling about this group of hard-living black male jazz musicians holed up in nazi-occupied paris, that i just naturally assumed the author was privy to the way men interact with each other; the baiting and insults, the quips and bravado, the sullenness that comes from waiting waiting waiting, while the female character seemed like a perfect invention - a fantasy of talent and maternal/sexual intrigue. but not tawdry, just better-than, if you know what i mean. this just sounds so spot-on to me: "don't go all joe bavaria on us, brother. you ain't a prude.come on. so she ain't no caviar. each man got the spice he likes. so you like old ordinary pepper.""nothing wrong with pepper," paul agreed."it's black," said chip."and peppery.""that it is, buck. that it is."well done, lady writer.for me, i like my historical fiction to be simply dusted with historical elements. sometimes it is great to learn whopping amounts of information about a particular time and place, but sometimes the character wins the day for me. and in this case, that is what happened. i learned just enough about what was at stake for black individuals during the beginning of nazi power - i had no idea there were different "levels" of blackness, each with their particular benefits or hardships. musicians were initially more or less safe, but when the turn came, it was swift and brutal.jazz. here in germany it became something worse than a virus. we was all of us damn fleas, us negroes and jews and low-life hoodlums, set on playing that vulgar racket, seducing sweet blond kids into corruption and sex. it wasn't a music, it wasn't a fad. it was a plague sent out by the dread black hordes, engineered by the jews. us negroes, see, we was only half to blame - we just can't help it. savages just got a natural feel for filthy rhythms, no self-control to speak of. but the jews, brother, now they cooked up this jungle music on purpose. all part of their master plan to weaken aryan youth, corrupt its janes, dilute its bloodlineswe lived with that for ten damn years.or that the nazis started their own brand of jazz, to try to quell the demand for it with a whiter, more sanctioned form of the music, whose musicians used sheet music. nazi jazz - think about it - how efficient it must have been. shudder.but in this book, sid, the narrator, is complicated enough without piling all kinds of historical learning on top of him. he is a loveable, hateable, conflicted, damaged unreliable narrator torn between his desire for a woman and his jealousy over "the kid", hieronymous falk, whose trumpet is astonishing and who seems to draw people to him like sweet baffled honey.jennifer (aka EM)'s review is super (and mentions George & Rue), especially the fourth paragraph. not much else needs to be said after that. but, hell, i will keep going, only to say thank you to bill thompson for sending me this book, and then lighting a fire under my ass about reading it, because i may have just let it languish on my shelves without the gentle prod. when it is published in this country, i am going to order up a ton of them, and hand-sell it like mad. i loved the lilting prose, i loved the group of musicians, i felt genuine emotion for them as the story unspooled. oh, there are some heartbreaking moments in this one, friends...i do recommend it to you. highly.

“Ain’t no man can outrun his fate”. -SidThe rich melodious hues of jazz reverberates within the pages Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, as she delivers an interesting story of music, love, and betrayal between three members of the fictional legendary jazz band, The Hot-Time Swingers. Their lives are reflected intermittently between the periods of 1940 Paris and Poland in 1992 as the mystery of one of their members’ disappearance is unfolded through the voice of the main character, Sidney.“Time ain’t no steady thing. The speed it move at depend entirely upon the speed you moving at yourself”. -SidThe novel opens in 1940 Paris. The atmosphere has swelled with fear since the Germans have advanced and completely taken over. The city is eerily quiet and desolated from the thousands of people who have vacated after receiving warning of the upcoming advancement of the Germans, following the withdrawal of the French to protect the city. However, within a strikingly dangerous time in Paris, an interminable love of jazz and a pressing desire to record a disc with one another, served as the sole deliverance of peace and sanity for three young musicians within the throes of war. “ We was a kind of family, as messed-up and dysfunctional as any as you could want”. -SidWritten in first person narrative form, readers are ushered into the story by the protagonist, Sidney Roscoe Griffiths “Sid”. He is presented as a man with keen instincts, envious tendencies, and selfish traits that will not only change the course of the legendary jazz history, but will test the loyalty of a friendship. His childhood friend from his hometown of Baltimore and band mate, Charles C. Jones “Chip” was my favorite character in the novel. Out of all the band members, he was the bravest, with a fearless persona, brash sense of humor, and of charming sensibilities. “The kid’s existence might’ve been a fiction we’d all cooked up if that disc hadn’t survived. Today you ain’t no kind of horn player you don’t acknowledge some debt to Hieronymus Falk. He was one of the pioneers: a German Louis Armstrong, if you will”. -SidIn Half Blood Blues, the antagonist character and the key figure in the plot is Hieronymus Thomas Falk “Heiro”, the German native who is the pulse of the Hot-Time Swingers band. Often referred to as “the kid” by his band mates for being the youngest member of the group, his innate skills as a brilliant trumpet player made him a jazz legend. However, his sudden disappearance during the rise of his career made his life an unsettling mystery. It is through the narration of the story by Sid, that readers discover what truly happened to the young musical genius.Author Esi Edugyan created a delightful read that is even paced, and inclusive of memorable characters. Her sentence structures often included the usage of metaphors to provide descriptions in a more creative manner. I was also impressed with the setting of the story being in France, because most novels that I have read that consist of a plot surrounding the musical genre of jazz, is written with a North American setting. Although I was not fond of the way in which the novel ended, I was satisfied with the overall story. I recommend this book to others.

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I was very disappointed in this book,the subject should have been a very interesting and gripping story, instead it dragged and even the end was a let down. The author did capture the frantic way people lived before the fall of france and the fear that people felt from the gestapo. The story revolved around a group of jazz players who were touring the Berlin club scene, and then fled to France.1 of the group was a black German, whose father came from the Cameroons and his mother was a white German. people forget there were actually black Germans from the African colonies, and they were rounded up and sent to the camps along with the Jews, liberals, Gypsies ,homosexuals and any one who dared to oppose the Nazi party. Bizarrely even Louis Armstrong made an appearence in this book from his sick bed in paris ! The rest of the party consisted of Americans and German jazz players. One night the black player Hieronymous Falk is arrested in a cafe and never heard of again. 50 years later their music is discovered again and there is a renewed interest in what happened during the war, 2 of the only remaining group return to Berlin to discover the truth. I just think more could have been made of the subject matter and the personalities of the main characters i did not really feel connected with any of them.

In this memory novel, the fears and regrets of an elderly man are interwoven with his experiences of pursuing the jazz dream in Nazi Germany and occupied France. Edugyan brings this period to life, shedding light on the experiences of black Americans and Europeans during Hitler’s expansion across Europe, and showing the euphoria and dream of Europe’s jazz culture. More than this, her novel is a study in friendship, friendships formed and intensified and pushed to the limits under unbearable conditions, friendship betrayed and forgiven. Sid, the flawed main character, and his life-long friend, Chip, are expertly formed characters, complicated, vital, and full of youthful hubris and elderly stubbornness. Together with Hieronymus the kid, and the strong-willed Delilah, they negotiate the jealousies and tensions of youth and friendship in 1940’s Europe, a tenuous, dangerous world where a tiny misstep means arrest and deportation. This lyrical narrative woven in Sid’s original voice is one worth reading, and then reading again.

beautifully written and evocative, this novel was such a pleasure to read. i loved the examination of guilt, desire and love mixed up with the escalation of WWII. why people do the things they do - well, it's never usually very clear. people are terrific at creating their own beliefs about others and, often, distortions of truth are concocted. people are complicated, their actions can perceived to be simple. esi edugyan gets all of this, and has written such a heartbreaking story of friendship, loyalty, music, and race. my only hesitation came with the ending - after the build up of the story, it felt rushed, sudden. and then it was quickly over. the ending works - don't get me wrong. i guess i just wasn't quite ready for it to be 2014, half-blood blues was one of five novels being championed on canada reads. if you are not familiar with this, we are really lucky to have a bookish reality show here in canada. think survivor with books. five books are championed by five fairly well-known canadians, and over four days the books are debated, judged and eliminated, until only one remains. half-blood blues was championed by olympic runner donovan bailey. the theme that year was 'the one book to change canada', which was a rather lofty goal. i have always felt the downside to the show has been the elimination of one book on the very first day. yes it's live programming, and yes, it's a limited window of opportunity. it's just tough losing one book so early, without enough of a chance to help it shine. it's also really tough when the champion doesn't serve the book well, as has happened a few times over the years. unfortunately, it happened with donovan bailey. he just seemed unable to eloquently defend half-blood blues, unable to counter-debate strongly. now that i have finally taken the chance to read the novel, i feel so disappointed it didn't go further in last year's program. i feel that under a different panelist, the strengths and opportunities of edugyan's book could have reached so many more people.sorry for the rambling tangent -- i love canada reads, and as i was so engrossed in reading half-blood blues, i felt sad that it was not better positioned last year and was imagining what could have been.
—Jennifer D

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