Half-blood Blues

Half-blood Blues

A Novel

Paperback - 2012 | First U.S. edition.
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Winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize

Man Booker Prize Finalist 2011
An Oprah Magazine Best Book of the Year

Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

Berlin, 1939 . The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris café. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black.

Berlin, 1952 . Falk is a jazz legend. Hot Time Swingers band members Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, both African Americans from Baltimore, have appeared in a documentary about Falk. When they are invited to attend the film's premier, Sid's role in Falk's fate will be questioned and the two old musicians set off on a surprising and strange journey.

From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, Sid leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world as he describes the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that led to Falk's incarceration in Sachsenhausen. Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues is a story about music and race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.

Publisher: New York : Picador, 2012.
Edition: First U.S. edition.
ISBN: 9781250012708
Branch Call Number: Fic
Characteristics: 319 pages ; 21 cm.


From the critics

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May 12, 2017

Recommended, especially for the music scene in pre-WWII Berlin and Paris.

May 17, 2016

7 out of 10. Enjoyed it, but the ending felt a little rushed since the whole story was about finding the guy

Dec 16, 2015

Amazing book! A wonderful treat to read. I learned more about jazz as well as the persecution of African heritage people by Germans in ww2. The dialect really grew on me. Very engrossing!

Nov 09, 2014

This book did not engage me much at all. At the beginning I had to acclimatize my ear to the dialect and wrap my head around the many jazz references. This led to some skipping of pages. Throughout the whole narrative I felt more for Chip, the friend, than I did for Sid the narrator (maybe I was supposed to). At times the transition from WWII Germany and France to modern day Poland was a bit awkward and I lost the rhythm of the tale. It was an interesting premise and I had some thoughts as to the outcome, but the real ending left me just a bit hanging - a big lead-up to what I thought was a fizzle.

Oct 30, 2014

The lives and the passion of being a musician and in the arts - blacks suffering during the Nazi occupations

Apr 30, 2014

I was disappointed. I expected this book to be more interesting -it's topic should be super interesting- and yet I found it lacking. It had a lull in the middle that made it hard to get through...

smc01 Feb 25, 2014

It took me a while to warm up to this novel, but after I did, I found the story fascinating and moving. The author does a terrific job of depicting a time and place. The friendship between the musicians is moving and I liked that Louis Armstrong was included as a character. The dialogue is some of the most inventive and witty I have ever read. I loved the voices in this book. As for being a Canada Reads contender, I'm not sure how this is a book that will "change Canada." It will be interesting to see how it's defended, because I don't think this book will inspire social change.

cvleblanc Feb 05, 2014

So glad that this is one of the selections for Canada Reads this year! It's a really original story, and in addition to being well-researched it is quite engrossing.

Jan 17, 2014

Read this for Canada Reads, a book I would never have picked otherwise; I hate jazz. However, I loved that book, it made me wish I loved jazz. It feels like you are taking a trip through WW2 Europe. The dialogue is a little hard to get used to, but once you do, you'll love it!

Jan 10, 2014

Thurs. Jan 9, 2014......Well, I notice I didn't make a note of when I started this book. I believe it was about a week ago (Thur Jan 3, or possibly Wed Jan 2.) I am about 1/2 way through it and I must say, it really has not engaged me yet. I am reading it because it was one of the picks for "Canada Reads 2014," but I have to say that the journey this year has not been a memorable one. This book is better than "Coackroach" but not as good as "Annabel" for me, but then "Annabel" wasn't too much of a great ride either. Hoping to have more luck with "Year of the Flood," or maybe "Orenda." Anyway, I am hoping to connect more with this book in the second half!.....Sunday Jan 12, well, on page 275 of 308, and it still is not hitting it off with me. I would have to say that I find it almost a little boring. To me, nothing has really HAPPENED yet. Oh well, maybe I can force myself to finish it tonight, so that I can move on! (p.s., for all you guys out there that are sick of reading my comments with the tracking of my pages, and my personal notes to myself, I have good news. I have just discovered the "Add More" button, under the "Comment" button, and it has a place to write "personal" notes! Yipee!).......Jan 13, just finished this book. Zipppppp, it went right over my head. I didn't get it at all. Too highbrow for me? I don't know, but if anyone would like to explain it to me, I would appreciate that. Otherwise, it was a journey that went in a circle and all I got was a little exercise, but very little stimulation. I'm not batting too well with the "Canada Reads" picks this year.

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Jun 04, 2012

Nutty thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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Aug 25, 2012

"Berlin, 1939. The Hot-Time Swingers, a popular German American jazz band, have been forbidden to play live because the Nazis have banned their 'degenerate music.' After escaping to Paris, where they meet Louis Armstrong, the band's brilliant young trumpet-player, Hieronymus Falk, is arrested in a café by the Gestapo. It is June 1940. He is never heard from again. He is twenty years old, a German citizen. And he is black. Berlin, 1992. Falk, now a jazz legend, is the subject of a celebratory documentary. Two of the original Hot-Time Swingers American band members, Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, are invited to attend the film's premier in Berlin. As they return to the landscape of their past friendships, rivalries, loves and betrayals, Sid, the only witness to Falk's disappearance who has always refused to speak about what happened, is forced to break his silence. Sid recreates the lost world of Berlin's pre-war smoky bars, and the salons of Paris, telling his vibrant and suspenseful story in German American slang. Half-Blood Blues is a novel about music and race, love and loyalty, and marks the arrival of an extraordinarily 'gifted storyteller' (The Toronto Star)"-


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