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A " must read" for all jazz fans by an author who truly understands the music,
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This review is from: Half Blood Blues (Paperback)
I'm a huge fan of all types of jazz but have a fascination for the early jazz of the 20's andd 30's and avidly snap up books about musicians from the period in order to get a better grasp of the music of that time. This read , therefore, was very much on my list off books to read.
Granted that I was always going to enjoy a book about one of my great passions, this novel is a hugely compelling story which will also appeal to those readers who do not appreciate jazz. The narrative is worthy of Dickens in the way that the two jive-talking protagonists constantly bicker amongst themselves and that you can quickly identify who is talking to whom. Chip and Sid always seem at each other's throat yet they clearly are unseparable. The supporting characters are also nicely defined with Louis Armstrong being portrayed as a larger than life character of whom all the musicians are in total awe. I felt that this book was extremely exciting as you wanted to know if all the characters would get out of Germany (and then France) in 1939 as well as finding out what happened to Heiro when Sid and Chip return to Europe for a jazz festival in 1992.
The amazing thing about this book is that the feel of the book is extremely authentic and Esi Edugyan's love of the music as well as her understanding of the practicioners shines through the pages. I loved reading the descriptions of the music being played which evoked for me some of the better passages of Ralph Berton's wonderful book about the legendary Bix Beiderbecke. In this respect, I felt Edugyan's writing is so strong that you can hear the music. It was a disappointment that "half Blood Blues" doesn't actually exist as , by the time you have finished the book, you really want to hear this record! The novel is enhanced by reference to genuine musicians such as Bill Coleman and the obscure Arthur Briggs - both of whom played trumpet like Heiro. Elsewhere, the description of the jazz festivals and the way that the music is promoted seems very credible from my own experiences of the same.
I found this book impossible to put down. Non-music fans will enjoy this book but jazz fans will reslish a novel that for once treats the music with respect and is not riddled with cliches about drink and drugs. Simply put, this book is a masterpiece and something of aa love letter to the music that shaped the 20th Century more than any other.