Amy's Reviews > Half Blood Blues

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
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Mar 27, 12

bookshelves: world-war-ii, france-paris
Read in March, 2012

Jazz musicians flee Berlin, get stuck in Paris, and meet up 50 years later in Poland. My favorite read of the year so far. Themes are a bit like McEwan’s “Atonement,” but in many ways, I liked this better. I’m about to write something that’s kind of a faux pas in book reviews, but I mean it as a high compliment: I’d love to see this made into a movie.

What’s not to love about this book? The plot moves along, something big happening every 20 pages or so. Our boys are in a street brawl with German thugs. . . . Our boys are playing in Montmartre with Louis Armstrong . . . . As old men, our boys are driving a huge Mercedes through the recently reunited Berlin. The characters are unforgettable—brash Chip, golden child Hiero, and jealous Sid. Some scenes are so intimate—-close-camera shots of male banter and music in smoky clubs. Some scenes are cinematic—-chaos at the Austerlitz train station as Parisians try to flee the invading Nazis.

And the writing. Poetry. Fresh. Here are a few examples:

"[Chip] stepped out in seersucker suits and shirts starched so stiff they left pressure marks on his wrists. Even onstage hitting the skins, he look like a croupier dealing cards."

Describing Tante Cecile (Chip’s aunt): "On the bed lay a creature so ancient I’d swore it known Cain back in the day. . . . Looked like an enormous old sea turtle."

"I seen I’d scored the prettier of the two [girls], with her slanted seed-like eyes, her toffee skin, her lips like split fruit. Wasn’t one piece of her didn’t remind me of food."

"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. "

"Oh but Delilah, sweet Delilah. Sweet like lemon in a wound."

"We grown lean as greyhounds, our bodies all hope and bone."

"I guess mercy is a muscle like any other. You got to exercise it, or it just cramp right up."

"Louis Armstrong, brother. That gate cast a shadow even lying down. And here he was jawing with Chip like their mamas used to knit together."
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