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Half Blood Blues

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,800 Ratings  ·  1,348 Reviews
The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there's more to ...more
ebook, 343 pages
Published January 1st 2011 by Serpent's Tail
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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
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
Oct 04, 2012 ·Karen· rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
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 liked it  ·  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.

K.D. Absolutely
Sep 27, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 03, 2013 Jeffrey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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
Feb 29, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is an extremely well written book—not surprising, I guess, since it was nominated for both the Man Booker and the Giller prizes. It took a period in history (the Second World War) that I care very little about and an aspect of that war that had never impinged on my consciousness (the Black experience of that war) and made me care very much indeed.

The story is told by Sidney Griffiths, a black jazz musician who is performing in Europe as the war is beginning. Sid is not a very likeable guy—
Oct 29, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Hallman
Aug 22, 2012 David Hallman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2015 Hanneke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story and characters sounded interesting, so I was curious to read the book. It could have been a special story, set in such an interesting time and locations, Berlin and Paris at the very beginning of WW-II. The characters should have also been people you don't normally encounter in a novel set at that time, i.e. guys in a black jazz band. Indeed, it could have provided some serious drama, as it is a known fact that Hitler c.s. severely objected to this 'depraved' music. However, it turned ...more
Nov 10, 2011 Kaliis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 04, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 18, 2012 Andree rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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.
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
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
Jennifer D
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, ...more
Sep 07, 2011 KOMET rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-general
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
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
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
Barth Siemens
Jan 11, 2016 Barth Siemens rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Upon reaching the half-way mark, I've decided that I'm mostly cold about Half-Blood Blues. While there are a few good scenes, the awkward writing style is just too frustrating to wade through. Furthermore, the good parts don't seem to be tied together into a plot and there is no discernible character development.
Steven Langdon
Oct 20, 2011 Steven Langdon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: super
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
Oct 10, 2011 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 04, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
Half-Blood Blues is a gorgeous, moving, and fresh story about the lives and struggles of African-American and Afro-German musicians in pre-war Europe. A novel of memory, identity, friendship, regret, loss, and love, Esi Edugyan has evoked a sensation that begins lightly around the mind but ends with a solid thrum in the chest.

Issues of racism and religious persecution are important in World War II/holocaust literature, and of course they exist in this novel. The story focuses on a jazz group con
“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
Glenn Dixon
May 19, 2013 Glenn Dixon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Marina Sofia
Apr 18, 2013 Marina Sofia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic voice! The story was perhaps somewhat predictable, but the voice and period and love of music just shine through.
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
Feb 08, 2012 Clare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Would this book be considered one about the clash of two cultures? 1 4 Mar 10, 2016 11:39AM  
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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 about Esi Edugyan...

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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.” 24 likes
“It's like that, I guess, when the past come to collect what you owe.” 15 likes
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