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Half Blood Blues [Paperback]

Esi Edugyan
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Audio, CD, Audiobook, Unabridged 19.81  
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012
Chip told us not to go out. Said, don't you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you.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 the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero's fate was settled. In Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don't tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong ...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846687764
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846687761
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A superbly atmospheric prologue kick-starts a thrilling story about truth and betrayal... [a] brilliant, fast-moving novel' --The Times

'Assured, vivid and persuasive' --Time Out

'This is a wonderful, vibrant, tense novel about war and its aftermath.' --Susan Hill - Man Booker Prize judge

'Edugyan really can write' --Guardian

'Edugyan has a perfect ear for conversations and the confusions of human love and jealousy. A remarkable novel.' --Morning Star

'Truly extraordinary in its evocation of time and place, its shimmering jazz vernacular, and its period slang.' --Independent

'Punchy and atmospheric' --Sunday Times

'Gripping' -- Irish Times

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

"'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 Hieronymous Falk on Wikipedia, disbelieving he was the product of one woman's imagination' (Attica Locke)"

'Lyrical and genuinely exciting it s a captivating book that races along with verve and panache' --Daily Express

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chandler meets Cormac McCarthy 23 Sep 2011
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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90 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Half Blood Blues 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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Jazzer, drop your axe, it's jazz police!" 30 Aug 2011
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Half Blood Blues carries a tremendous sense of time and place. That being - the jazz clubs of Berlin and Paris at the outbreak of World War Two, and specifically seen through the eyes of Sid Griffiths, a black American musician.

Sid narrates his story in a voice lifted straight from the old jazz records of the 1930s. Idiosyncratic, smoky and fused with a passion for music. Sid and his crew - Chip C Jones, Hieronymous Falk and the delightful Delilah - are not political beings. Sid and Chip, as Americans, look at the ongoing political developments with a certain detachment. They fear the Nazis - or "boots" as they are called - but still concentrate more on food, drink and chasing the ladies. And as Sid reminds us, life back in the US was not a bed of roses for black musicians.

The intrigue comes in the shape of the German musicians who join them. These include Paul, a Jewish pianist; Ernst, a white Aryan with a wealthy father; and Hiero, a German citizen of African heritage. Whilst the Nazis were ambivalent towards Sid and Chip, they were far less tolerant of their own nationals who chose a bohemian jazz life and positively apoplectic at the prospect of Jewish jazzers. As the band play cat and mouse with the boots, flitting across borders with false papers in the dead of night, there are opportunities for great courage - and opportunities for base betrayal. With the wine and women in play, there's mayhem.

This is set in relief by scenes set shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as a documentary maker seeks to narrate the life of Hiero. Hiero's brief life as a trumpeter had left a legacy of almost mythic proportion. Sid and Chip are invited along as bit part players.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for jazz buffs
Once I got used to the vernacular in this novel, I really began to enjoy its unusual take on life in Berlin and Paris during the WW II. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr R
5.0 out of 5 stars Really unusual book
Set in the years between the wars and afterwards this book about African Americans musicians in Berlin and Paris was a real page turner. Read more
Published 2 months ago by I readalot
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Although I had a difficult start getting into the book, I got hooked quite quickly and loved the refreshing way in which this was written.
Published 5 months ago by Charlie
If you're going to write fiction about a specialised subject then it behoves you to get your facts right. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Barry McCanna
3.0 out of 5 stars A book that made me think
This book tells the story of three black jazz musicians who find themselves in Berlin at the beginning of the Second World War. Read more
Published 8 months ago by FrenchVillageDiaries
4.0 out of 5 stars I could almost hear the jazz
You feel you are in Europe at the beginning of WW2. The author knows her Jazz and her Paris. A very good read that held my interest, unlike many books I read today, until the last... Read more
Published 8 months ago by David Weston
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Read this for our book club. Some people could not get into the language/patois used but I found it very authentic. Nice twist at the tail.
Published 10 months ago by maggot
3.0 out of 5 stars fair read
at times given the language in which the story is told can be a little hard to stay with and yet on occasions the literature is excellent in its description
Published 12 months ago by sbf-feedback
4.0 out of 5 stars Half Blood Blues
I wanted to read this because it had been shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2011, along with five others: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (the winning novel), Jamrach's... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Laura Besley
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm
I am just over half way through this book and it's a bit on the turgid side. There are a few interesting bits, but the jury is still out !
Published 13 months ago by PenLou
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