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Half-Blood Blues: A Novel Paperback – Aug 25 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers; 5th Printing edition (Aug. 25 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887627412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887627415
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

...a stunning, powerful read, a compelling story brilliantly told.



Half-Blood Blues can be compared to a jazz symphony with discrete movements, shifting moods and a complex chorus of human and instrumental voices: It swings between present and past, North and South, East and West, black and white, art and violence, war and peace... Edugyan's musically educated ear allows her to transpose notes into words and back again... a brilliantly conceived, gorgeously executed novel.



Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan has written a truly beautiful novel.

Half-Blood Blues is an engrossing and unforgettable story.

... surprisingly bouyant. It's deftly paced in incident and tone, moving from scenes of snappy dialogue...to tense, atmospheric passages of description... Half-Blood Blues itself represents a kind of flowering -- that of a gifted storyteller.

...Half-Blood Blues has one of the most beautiful and understated resolutions in recent Canadian literature.

Half-Blood Blues... is a stunningly good novel about a time in music that still resonates today. Punctuated with the beat of jazz, it has moments of sheer magic.

Her style is deceptively conversational and easy, but with the simultaneous exuberance and discipline of a true prodigy.

...when Edugyan writes about the music, you can feel it vibrating in your bones.

...Edugyan draws us into the story with brilliant cadence to her writing. Like a drummer counting down the beat for the band, Edugyan creates a rhythm in her dialogue that sings.

Review

“Edugyan’s elegiac, shimmering prose makes up for the lack of sunny skies in this impressively conceived and well-executed debut.“ ?Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Edugyan’s spare prose, visceral images, and unfussy dialogue create a suitably ominous atmosphere?. The close... is astonishingly moving. A talented writer to watch.“ ?Kirkus Reviews

“[P]acks a powerful emotional punch.... Fine writing, subtle characterisation and a convincing portrayal of place and period mark out this engaging first work, reminiscent of early VS Naipaul.“ ?The Guardian (UK)

“In this brilliantly written debut novel, Edugyan flawlessly creates and maintains a pervasive sense of hope loneliness, foreboding and futility.“ ?Black Issues Book Review (US)

“[The Second Life of Samuel Tyne] balances the brilliance and audacity of youthful enthusiasm with sage awareness. It’s an impressive debut? a beautifully written novel.“ ?Toronto Star

“An assured and insightful first novel of displacement of fractured identity....This deftly constructed tale... of one tiny, befuddled corner of the African diaspora is finally about all of us?about the hope we have of being our best selves, before it’s too late.“ ?The Globe and Mail


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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Paolo TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Sept. 8 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a story of the death of jazz at the dawn of Nazism in Germany. The name 'Half-Blood Blues' takes its inspiration from the book's hero and a jazz legend in the making Hieronymous 'Hiero' Falk is just nineteen when he starts playing with the 'Hot Time Swingers' alongside Charles 'Chip Jones and Sidney 'Sid' Griffiths, the narrator of the tale. The son of a German woman and a French African brought in to marshal the Rheinland after that part of Germany was ceded to France after the Treaty of Versailles. Hiero is a half-breed or 'mischling'.

The story is set both in the 1940s in Berlin and Paris as the Trio try to stay one step ahead of Hitler's ever advancing army but also in the 1990s in a newly reunited Germany at a concert in Hiero's honour. At the heart of the story is the secret Sid harbours as to how Hiero's fate was sealed.

I didn't expect to enjoy this book and it starts slowly but it is a tale that draws you in. Literary takes on music rarely seem to work but Edugyan is able to render the atmosphere of 1940s jazz, the language of the trio and banter between them feels authentic. The plot is a little weak to sustain the length and the potentially most interesting of the characters, Hiero, is the least well developed but by the end of the book they seem like minor complaints as is the rather random and quite pointless inclusion of Louis Armstrong who makes an appearance. A more major complaint on my behalf is that the list price for this trade paperback is $24.95 which seems like daylight robbery especially since the text is littered with typos and printing errors; if you're going to charge that much then at least earn it with some better proofreading. However I shall not hold the publisher's problems against the author.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Westdale on Nov. 14 2011
Format: Paperback
Ms. Egugyan's literary talent is evident in this book. She is, as the critics like to say, in control of her work. And the concept of developing a novel set among (mostly) black jazz musicians in Germany and France in the immediate pre-WWII days is brilliant. But despite these qualities, it doesn't really work.

The plot has been spelled out here by other reviewers, so there is no need to replicate it. I agree that the inclusion of Louis Armstrong added little to the story, and the pivotal character, Hiero, is never really developed although he morphs into a wide icon at the end. For most of the book he is more a sullen juvenile than anyone we can care about.

The major flaw is the author''s apparent lack of familiarity with jazz of any era, especially her inability to express the mood of the musicians and the impact of the music itself. This is hardly unique to her, but it seemed to me that it would be totally necessary in order to justify the personalities and actions of the characters. Jazz, after all, is the principal motivator of both the plot and characters. Nothing in the book communicates the passion they feel (or should) for their music; the author's attempts to describe their playing is embarrassing in its ineptness. As a musician I have never heard a trumpeter describe his or her possessing 'pistons'; they are always valves. And it is impossible, by his words, to believe the narrator actually played a bass fiddle (my instrument), as claimed in the story.

Small points? Maybe. But verisimilitude is vital to any story, especially one as era- and culture-specific as this.

I know the book has won major awards and congratulations to the author for them. But if you know as much as the author should know about one of the two primary subjects (jazz and the Nazis), it's a disappointment.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wordlover on Nov. 26 2011
Format: Paperback
Esi Edugyan's novel was shortlisted for 4 major literary prizes and won one of them, the Giller Prize, for good reason. The story focuses on jazz musicians in Europe between the the two world wars, and sheds light on a fascinating but little known quirk of history: black Germans, the offspring of German women and African soldiers from French colonies who were sent to occupy the Rhineland after WWI. One of these, Hiero, is a musical genius and the plot revolves in part around him and his mysterious disappearance.

The narrator, Sid, is an African-American bass player playing jazz in Germany in a legendary combo along with Hiero. He's been criticized by at least one influential critic for not being very likeable, but that has surely never been a criterion for creating memorable characters in fiction. His "voice" is distinctive and I found him highly engaging, perhaps all the more so for his failings as a human being. These in fact turn out to be crucial to the story, which shifts from just before WWII to 1992, when Sid and the other surviving musician from the band travel back to Berlin.

Another reviewer complained here on Amazon that the book is littered with typos and errors: I don't think so. I suspect that person hasn't caught on to the slang and near-dialect the characters use, which subtly change depending on whether it's 1940 or 1992. (E.g., Sid often says "you" instead of "your," drops his "g"s on words like "going" in the earlier sections, etc.) As well, the author has stated in interviews that some of the slang is based on written accounts by jazz musicians of the period, and some of it, such as the nickname "boots" for Nazi soldiers, she made up. The writing flows along with its own rhythms and quirks, like improvised jazz.

All in all, a compelling read!
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