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Half Blood Blues Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

61 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846687764
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846687761
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A superbly atmospheric prologue kick-starts a thrilling story about truth and betrayal... [a] brilliant, fast-moving novel. (Kate Saunders Times 2011-08-27)

Assured, vivid and persuasive... Impressively evocative of period and place, and an effortlessly involving and dramatically unusual second novel. (Sharon O'Connell Time Out 2011-06-16)

This is a wonderful, vibrant, tense novel about war and its aftermath. Its author has brought both the wartime past of a devastated city and its confident reinvention of itself in a new era to life with extraordinary assurance. (Susan Hill Man Booker Prize judge 2011-09-06)

Simply stunning, one of the freshest pieces of fiction I've read. A story I'd never heard before, told in a way I'd never seen before. I felt the whole time I was reading it like I was being let in on something, the story of a legend deconstructed. It's a world of characters so realized that I found myself at one point looking up Hieronymus Falk on Wikipedia, disbelieving he was the product of one woman's imagination (Attica Locke)

Edugyan really can write... redemptive (Bernadine Evaristo Guardian 2011-06-25)

Mesmerising... Edugyan has a perfect ear for conversations and the confusions of human love and jealousy... moving... A remarkable novel. (Morning Star 2011-07-21)

Ingenious... (Anthony Cummins Daily Telegraph 2011-08-06)

A mature, moving second novel was very deservedly shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this week... Half Blood Blues shines with knowledge, emotional insight, and historical revisionism, yet it never becomes over-burdened by its research. The novel is truly extraordinary in its evocation of time and place, its shimmering jazz vernacular, its pitch-perfect male banter and its period slang. Edugyan never stumbles with her storytelling, not over one sentence. (Arifa Akbar Independent 2011-09-09)

Half Blood Blues shines with knowledge, emotional insight, and historical revisionism, yet it never becomes overburdened by its research. The novel is truly extraordinary in its evocation of time and places, its shimmering jazz vernacular, its pitch-perfect male banter and its period slang. (Canberra Times, Australia 2011-09-17)

Sid's voice... is a triumph of vernacular writing and convincingly captures the mood of the late jazz age in Europe... punchy and atmospheric. (Edmund Gordon Sunday Times 2011-09-25)

Edugyan has mastered the darting, dozens-infused black male jazz voice so well that you'll not pause considering whether Griffiths' or Jones' Baltimorean aphorisms or slang terms are accurate. Instead, you'll relish how Edugyan's consistent, arresting musicality, at both the sentence and structural levels, develops its own accurate truth about experience. Like Armstrong's famous cadenza opening his 1928 recording of "West End Blues," Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues is her royal fanfare, a rising flare announcing her literary genius. (Walton Muyumba Dallas News 2012-03-24)

Edugyan tells this incredibly rich story of music, politics, and personal betrayal both subtly and dramatically, unveiling the mystery of what happened to Falk as she exposes the tensions between the band members and the secret that has been gnawing at one of them for half a century... Edugyan's novel mixes palpable period atmosphere with an interpersonal drama of great emotional depth. That narrow moment in time when the freewheeling decadence of Weimar Germany gave way to jackbooted tyranny has been the subject of much fine fiction, but Edugyan is the first to overlay it with jazz history. It makes a sublime marriage. (Bill Ott Booklist 2012-01-01)

what stands out most is its cadenced narration and slangy dialogue, as conversations, both spoken and unspoken, snap, sizzle, and slide off the page. (Publishers' Weekly 2012-03-01)

Gripping... (Mary Feely Irish Times 2012-04-14)

Nimble storytelling ... Casablanca-style melodrama with healthy doses of quotidian banter, admirably capturing the bickering camaraderie of the young musicians. (International Herald Tribune 2012-04-14)

Lyrical and genuinely exciting it's a captivating book that races along with verve and panache. (Emma Lee Potter Daily Express 2012-05-25)

Book Description

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011 and the Orange Prize 2012.

From Weimar Berlin to the fall of Paris and on to the present day - a story of friendship and betrayal.


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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
Since I don't care for jazz and have little in common with hard-drinking Black American male musicians, why was I so quickly hooked on "Half Blood Blues"? At first, it was the dry, wisecracking wit, and the rhythm of the Black American speech patterns which didn't grate as I would have expected - "he stood..leaning like a brisk wind done come up" or "Man, Sid, ain't you ever going to clean up? You live in plain disrepair" and so on.

Then, I was struck by the spate of vivid, original similes. "He got oddly thin lips, and with the drink still glistening on them they looked like oysters".

I realised too that there is scope for a compelling drama in a situation where a group of jazz musicians, some black, realise that the world of swing in 1930s Berlin has suddenly turned dark as the Nazis brand it "degenerate art" and begin to beat up black artists.

The author knows how to create tension. From the opening sentence, "Chip told us not to go out", the first chapter builds up a sense of impending calamity, as the narrator Sid reluctantly accompanies Hiero, a youthful prodigy on the trumpet, in his unwise quest for a drink of milk in occupied Paris, where his high visibility as a Black German combined with a lack of the right papers place him at risk of deportation to a death camp.

Esi Edugyan takes risks in introducing the real-life Louis Armstrong to the plot, but carries it off convincingly. She also succeeds in helping me to understand the appeal of jazz music. She finds apt words to describe in detail how Hiero's playing sounds to Sid.

"Hiero thrown out note after shimmering note, like sunshine sliding over the surface of a lake, and Armstrong was the water, all depth and thought, not one wasted note.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Half Blood Blues tells the story of a group of young jazz artists trapped in the maelstrom of WWII, in Berlin and later in Paris where their future looks set to be in danger as the German machine rolls along in its plan for the thousand year Reich. The group is helped by their multiple origins - protected by Ernst and Paul who are white, though nothing can help them when Hieronymous Falk, the group's leader, is arrested in a café - his fate seems sealed. Years later, Sid, the novel's narrator, and Chip Coleman, the band's drummer, set out to try to trace Hiero when they learn that he has have survived the war and is now in Poland.

The writing is authentic and cleverly slanted to suggest it voices rich with New York Harlem vernacular. Even more artfully the novel entirely masks that this is a book written by a young woman New Yorker. The tone never slides or falters and I found myself full of admiration for the authenticity of Edugyan's achievement. To take such an unlikely subject as mixed-race Germans and black jazz players and craft a story of jealousy and betrayal in wartime deserves plaudits. The characters are well-developed, especially Sid and Chip, and one feels the helplessness of their situation trapped in a city at war.
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91 of 97 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 31 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Charles C. Jones (call him 'Chip' and don't ask what the 'C' stands for) and Sidney Griffiths have been friends since they were kids in Baltimore. They are musicians and they find themselves in Berlin at the start of WWII, along with a band including the exotically named Hieronymous Falk, who is young, amazingly gifted, half German and black. A brawl with some 'boots' as German soldiers are referred to in the book, leads to the band taking up an offer to go to Paris, just before it fell to the Germans. This is easier said than done and the author shows the tension involved at that time, when the authorities had such control over the population. When Paris falls, Hiero is in danger for being German as well as for his colour. Chip and Sid are also black (although Sid, being much lighter, finds it easier to move around without being noticed) and, as US citizens, they have a better chance of leaving the city. When Hiero is suddenly arrested in a cafe, he disappears without a trace.

This book has many intersting themes - friendship, betrayal and, at its core, jealousy. Not only sexual jealousy, but that of someone who lacks musical genius for someone naturally gifted. A large part of the book is set during the fall of Paris, but the story also includes Chip and Sid returning to Berlin in 1992 for a Music Festival, and a mysterious letter that Chip received about Hiero's fate. This trip forces Sid to return to that time and re-evaluate what happened. Although the main action of the book is set during the very early months of the war, the author makes it clear that the musicians had no doubt about what arrest meant - the knowledge that people can easily disappear or be killed is starkly understood.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lucybird on 1 April 2012
Format: Paperback
Can't say that Half Blood Blues was really what I expected. I expected it to primarily be about the second world war and what it was like to be a black person living in a Nazi occupied country. The book of course did have an element of this in, and the setting of the war was important for the story, but really it was a book about a group of friends, and about music. At first I found the voice of Sid (the narrator) really annoying but as I got used to it, and started getting into the story, it ceased to be a factor that really mattered to me. I did come to enjoy the book, mainly because I wanted to know what Sid did, but once I knew I was still interested in continuing to read.

I can't say I really connected with the characters. I wanted everything to turn out right for Sid but only because I felt sorry for him.

I found the ending was a little abrupt too, especially as they rest of the novel looked to that pont, I just felt it could be expanded upon.

Would I recommend it? Yes I suppose so but I don't think it's really award winning material, just a decent read.
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