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Half-Blood Blues

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  8,539 ratings  ·  1,203 reviews
Berlin, 1939. A young, brilliant trumpet-player, Hieronymus, is arrested in a Paris cafe. The star musician was never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.

Fifty years later, Sidney Griffiths, the only witness that day, still refuses to speak of what he saw. When Chip Jones, his friend and fellow band member, comes to visit, r...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Picador (first published April 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen

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, kiddies.

so 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 t...more
Gregory Baird
"That was why I come. Not to find a friend, but to finally, and forever, lose one."

The downside of being an avid reader is that you can go through a great deal of books without really connecting to one. It's not that you're jaded, just that at a certain point it takes more to really impress you. There are, after all, only so many stories a person can tell, so plots become cliched, characters become familiar. But every once in a while a voice comes along that makes you sit up and pay attention. A...more
·Karen·
This is a mystery to me. It has some excellent ingredients, but it doesn't meld into a potion that has any power to engage, and I can't quite work out why. The narrative voice I found warm, the friendly banter between characters amusing, the historical background of interest and well rendered, so what went wrong? Why did I end up hopping an' skipping over pages and pages, merely in order to find out if my suspicions were confirmed at the end? Yes, indeed, I had a horrible feeling that was exactl...more
Barbara McVeigh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 30, 2014 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: debra
Shelves: maple-flavoured
This book was ok. I didn't love love love it - I found it hard to get into (that could be because I was reading it amidst a house full of people, though). The language of the intriguingly-unreliable narrator seemed contrived (compared to George Rue, which did a better job of a similar patois).

I would have liked more music - she did a great job describing the first-person feeling of playing music, but a less good job really bringing the jazz scene in Nazi Germany / Paris in the 30s to life.

---E...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 27, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker shortlist 2011
I really enjoyed reading this book. I even thought that it was even a notch better than the eventual Booker winner last year, Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending. The only difficulty I had with this book is Edugyan's writing style. There are some sentences that are verbose. Her choices of words seem to me as not exact even using my limited vocabulary as the yardstick. Lastly, there also seem to to be some grammatically incorrect sentences. I first thought that the slight variations to conventi...more
Cynthia
In 1992 Chip Jones (a professional drummer) and Sid Griffiths (a base player as a young man) take a trip together back to Germany where they spent part of their youth during the beginning of World War II. They return as VIP's guests for the showing of a documentary based on their fellow band mate and trumpeter Hieronymus Falk's. It highlights Hiero legendary talent but it also peripherally covers their entire jazz ensemble. Chip makes some comments in the film that appall Sid, maybe because they...more
Jeffrey

The premise of the novel is a good one: black Jazz band in Nazi Berlin...but it is TED I OUS...the plot is unfathomable, the writing is 'creative 101' oh, lets do first person...only it irritates the reader and fails on description and indeed, any form of engaging language.
After chapter two, I stopped, read a few more later in the book and the last chapter and was not disappointed - it went in the trash.

A poor plot, characters that do not engage, and only a page turned in so much as you long to...more
Jill
Sometimes two stories vie for attention: the story the author could have written and the one she actually did write. Such is the case with Half-Blood Blues.

If you come into this book expecting the promises of the publicist – in essence, the black German experience under the tyrannical rule of the Third Reich – you will find this book to be wanting. However, if you are looking for a book that delivers on what the author fully intends – an exploration of a one-time tight-knit jazz band with strivi...more
David Hallman
I’m not sure if there is a social trend going on, or if it’s just the books that I’m drawn to currently, or if literary prize juries happen to be sharing my particular obsession, but I’m reading a lot of books these days about memory.

Some of them are outstanding – Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” tops my personal favourite list and walked off with the Pulitzer Prize several years ago.

Some of them leave me quite cold – Julian Barnes 2011 Man/Booker Prize winning “The Sense of an Ending” falls into t...more
Kaliis
Okay. I really REALLY wanted to give this book 4 stars...

But the ending is so rushed I thought I'd somehow gotten a copy of the book that was short a few pages, which is impressive since I read it on my kindle.

The Ending is also a little too pat for my tastes. All along she's got this fantastic unreliable narrator who openly acknowledges that he's unreliable in the best of ways: By simply saying that he's old and doesn't really care. And this works well with the course of the story...until he s...more
Jonathan
So far I'm obsessed w/ this. It's amazing how Edugyan evokes the rhythm and feel of jazz with her storytelling and dialogue. What's more, the story explores fascinating issues of identity and politics with a light touch. And it's creatively structured to boot. I can't wait to see how this story begins/ends...

Update: This is one of my favorite novels in recent memory, maybe ever. It's difficult to put down, because it's just so propulsive. Edugyan is one of those big-hearted authors who can make...more
Andree
This book, well, It's probably more 3.5 stars.

I liked it. I did. It just wasn't my favourite book ever. I do think it was well done. It's definitely interesting. It jumps between present-day and Germany at the start of WWII and centres around a group of black Jazz musicians. I never really thought about the black community in Germany during the wars. When you think of the horrors committed against people during that time period, they're not the first group that comes to mind for obvious reasons....more
Michael
An unusual novel and Booker Prize finalist which uniquely brings to life the story of a group of young black jazz musicians in Berlin and Paris in the period before and soon after Hitler's takeover of France.

The narrative is told from the perspective of the bassist Sid, both then and fifty years later, as he heads from his home in Baltimore with his drummer friend from the old group to attend a documentary about them in Berlin. This revives memories of the disaster of the Nazi apprehension of t...more
KOMET
I just finished this novel a little less than 5 minutes ago, and all I could do was hold my breath at its denouement.

The 2 main characters throughout the story are Charles C. Jones (better known as "Chip") and Sidney Griffiths ("Sid"), both African Americans, who met on the cusp of adolescence in Baltimore and later went over to Germany in the late 1920s to play jazz. Theirs was often a contentious, sparring kind of relationship that was kept strong by their common love for jazz.

The story alte...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
It took a long time to get to this book. When it was nominated for the Booker, and then for the Giller prize, it still wasn't available for purchase in the USA. I even ranted about it in my blog.

Edugyan won the Giller prize for Half Blood Blues, and then was also included on the long list for the Orange Prize. I finally tracked a copy down, and I am so glad I did.

Half Blood Blues goes back and forth between 1939 in Berlin, 1940 in Paris, and 1992 in a handful of countries, circling around the wo...more
AliceinWonderland
TIP: You have to get past the 1st chapter to really get into this book and accustomed to the main character's so-called "distinctive German-American slang", because the rhythm is not typical and takes awhile to get accustomed to.
- After that, however, the pace and language becomes easier to read.
- Edugyan is a good writer, no doubt about that. There are certain phrases in the book which are just beautiful, BUT...
- The main thing that irked me immensely is the inconsistency of Sid's voice. I unde...more
Michael
While this book wasn’t exciting or fantastic in any way, shape or form; I’m still glad I read it. It was an enjoyable read, real story around focused mainly on the friends and their love for playing Jazz. Half Blood Blues was short listed for the Man Booker and tells the story mainly of Jazz Musicians Sid, Chip and Hiero during World War 2. As they were African Americans they were labelled Rhineland Bastards and end up been abducted by the Nazis. This is a book not only about racism (thankfully...more
Steven Langdon
Esi Edugyan has created a vivid and unique world in this story of betrayal, love and jazz -- within the grimly darkening shadows of the rise of Nazi Germany before World War Two. Sid and Chip are black American jazz musicians working in pre-war Berlin, where racism had been less grim than in the U.S. before the Nazi campaign for "Aryan purity" escalated; they connect with Hiero, a young genius with a trumpet, whose father was African while his mother was a white German. All become targets for Na...more
Julie
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 Germ...more
Babydoll
“Ain’t no man can outrun his fate”. -Sid

The 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 ai...more
Glenn
I went to a reading Esi gave from this book. At the end, someone asked her the question - what were her influences. She said she had a high school English teacher that changed her life forever and she said the name of this teacher. Then, amazingly, someone in the crowd stood up and said, she's here. That old English teacher stood up and everyone broke into applause. Esi cried a bit. So did the teacher.

This is quite a stunning book. The voices of the era - the jazz age, Paris under the Nazi occup...more
Christa  Seeley
This review originally posted at Christa's Hooked on Books

Half Blood Blues is a heart wrenching story of survival, betrayal and how the choices we make affect us for the rest of our life.

Half Blood Blues, along with The Sisters Brothers are two books that have received a lot of buzz this award season. Both have received short list nominations for the Giller and Booker prizes. It doesn't get much better than that. In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that I read The Sisters Brothers e...more
Clare
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 cond...more
Ali
This is the fourth of this year's booker shortlist that I have now read.

I loved this novel! Atmospheric, poignant and enormously readable, I actually found it hard to put down. Beautiful writing with such a wonderful sense of time and place that it perfectly transports the reader to the jazz cafes's of Berlin and Paris in the 1940's. Narrated by American Sid Griffiths, Hiero's bandmate, now 83 years old, in an unforgettably, authentic, musical voice. It is through him we see the first uneasy day...more
Dana Burgess
Esi Edugyan is an absolutely gorgeous woman and she has written an absolutely gorgeous book called Half-Blood Blues. I am ashamed to say I had never heard of it despite the fact it was a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Man Booker Prize and a winner of the Scotia Bank Giller Prize. Add to that, I was messing around on amazon.ca and discovered that the amazon powers-that-be list this gem among the top 100 books of 2011. Still I a...more
Ian
Just finished this fascinating novel.
Reading it was like sitting through an extended jazz set in a smoky bar in Paris.
Edugyan's ear is flawless.
Try this, for instance, about the two old friends at the centre of the story:

"So we cut out again, me and Chip. Don't know what it is about that man. He's like a weakness for me, even seventy years later. I ain't a stupid man, no more than most. And he ain't that damn charming. But it seems we is friends to the last. Why, I don't know. The best I can say...more
Elizabeth
set in berlin and paris at the end of the 1930's when these two countries are on the verge of war, this book tells the little known history of jazz during this era. more importantly, it recounts a small part of what african-born germans and black americans in germany encountered during this time.

the narrator is sid, a bass player, and member of a jazz band in berlin. we get most of the story in alternating chapters: past and present. in 1992-1993, a documentary is made about the recording of "ha...more
Karen
Winner of the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize, short-listed for the 2011 Governor General's Award for Fiction

Paris, 1940. A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. He is a German citizen. And he is black.

Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero's fate. From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons o...more
Merilee
Maybe really a 4.5/5, but I really enjoyed this novel about Black musicians in Paris and Berlin before and during WWII. The characters and dialogue are very well-written. Edugyan has won 3 or 4 big prizes here in Canada (she's a Canadian of Ghanaian extraction), as well as being one of the six short-listers for last year's Booker.
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Esi Edugyan has a Masters in Writing from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2003, ed. Joyce Carol Oates, and Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing (2006).

Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, was published internationally. It was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, was a More Book Lust se...more
More about Esi Edugyan...
The Second Life of Samuel Tyne Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home

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“Folks think a lifetime is a thing stretched out over years. It ain't. It can happen quick as a match in a dark room.” 19 likes
“It's like that, I guess, when the past come to collect what you owe.” 11 likes
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