Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan **possible spoilers ahead**

Half Blood Blues opens in Paris, 1940, not long after the beginning of the Nazi occupation. It follows the tale of the Hot-Time Swingers band, who's members consist of a diverse collection of African-American, Jewish and Afro-German Jazz lovers and players, who find themselves being followed by the German invading forces as they try to escape it's reach.

The story itself revolves around Heiro Falks, the trumpet player, who is of Afro-German descent who was raised in the Rhineland. Amazingly gifted, he has the ability to go on and accomplish a lot - if it weren't for the fact that he was forced into hiding in Berlin and then Paris before being captured and sent to Sachsenhausen aged 19. However, it is not Heiro we hear the tale from but Sid Griffiths, the band's bassist and a Baltimore native, who's jealousy and inner betrayal leads to the kid's capture and disappearance.

 The story switches back and forth between their time as a band in the late 30's, early 40s on to 1992 where Sid and Chip, the band's drummer, are to attend the premiere of a documentary about Heiro - now a jazz legend - and what happens after that.

I picked up this book with the thought that it would be filled with constant references to the Aryan ideology, Nazi Rallies, mass imprisonments and the persecution of Jews but this story focuses more on the relationship changes in the band that just so happened to occur at the time of, and only occasionally because of, the Third Reich. This is more a look at what can happen to a strong bond if put under the right pressure and what a person can do in a moment of madness, jealousy or just plain malevolence.

I thought this book would be another one that I would read and not feel too much about either way, I was wrong. I found it rather intriguing to the point where I kept putting it down to do something only to pick it straight back up again. It didn't hold me so that I couldn't put it down, more I didn't realise how into it I was until I stopped reading it.

I found the character of Sid to be selfish and hard to care about, I just couldn't connect to him. The style of writing was in his vernacular slang that can be annoying at times to get through but adds to the overall feel of the book.

More disappointing was the fact that we never got to truly hear about Heiro's story except what a rathe biased, clouded Sid shows us. I wish I could've known more about his background, his views and feelings on being made stateless by his home country and what happened to him after his arrest.

I enjoyed this book, granted there were a few bits that annoyed me but overall Edugyan's style of writing had me gripped without realising it. A different view on a time that's already much written about.

2 comments:

toni d. said...

Sounds like an interesting read, not really my kind of thing but you've got my curiosity piqued!

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