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Half-Blood Bluesby Esi Edugyan
2011 Man Booker Prize Finalist
2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner
2011 Governor Generals Literary Award for Fiction Shortlist
Synopses & Reviews
Berlin, 1939. The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris cafe. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black.
Berlin, 1952. Falk is a jazz legend. Hot Time Swingers band members Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, both African Americans from Baltimore, have appeared in a documentary about Falk. When they are invited to attend the films premier, Sid's role in Falk's fate will be questioned and the two old musicians set off on a surprising and strange journey.
From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, Sid leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world as he describes the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that led to Falk's incarceration in Sachsenhausen. Half-Blood Blues is a story about music and race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.
"Edugyan's second novel, shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, pays a mournful tribute to the Hot-Time Swingers, a once-legendary six-piece German-American multiracial jazz ensemble gigging in Berlin on the eve of WWII. When the pianist is picked up by the Gestapo, the remaining members flee to Paris with forged passports to meet Louis Armstrong in hopes of cutting a record. After the German occupation of Paris, 'the Boots' arrest Hieronymous ('Hiero') Falk, the band's 20-year-old-genius Afro-German trumpet player, leaving the band with one half-finished record, one shattered love affair, and one too many secrets. The story of the band's demise and partial resurrection, as seen through the eyes of Sid Griffiths — the upright bass player — unfolds in richly scripted vignettes alternating between 1939/1940 (when Hiero disappears) and 1992 (when Sid and Chip Jones, the percussionist, revisit Berlin for a Hieronymous Falk festival and walk down memory lane). By the book's end, readers will have pieced together most of the truth behind Sid's biased recounting of events, but nothing will prepare them for the disclosure of an ultimate betrayal. While the rarely explored subject adds to the book's allure, what stands out most is its cadenced narration and slangy dialogue, as conversations, both spoken and unspoken, snap, sizzle, and slide off the page. Sid's motivation can feel obscure, but his lessons learned are hard-won all the same. Agent: Anne McDermid, Anne McDermid Associates." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Unforgettable...Brilliantly conceived, gorgeously executed. It's a work that promises to lead black literature in a whole new direction." The Globe and Mail
"A superbly atmospheric prologue kick-starts a thrilling story about truth and betrayal…[A] brilliantly fast-moving novel." The Times
"Shines with knowledge, emotional insight, and historical revisionism…Truly extraordinary in its evocation of time and place, its shimmering jazz vernacular, its pitch-perfect male banter and its period slang." The Independent
"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." The Independent UK
About the Author
Esi Edugyan has a Masters in Writing from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2003, ed. Joyce Carol Oates, and Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing (2006). Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, was published internationally. It was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, was a More Book Lust selection, and was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of 2004's Books to Remember. Edugyan has held fellowships in the US, Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain and Belgium. She has taught creative writing at both Johns Hopkins University and the University of Victoria. She currently lives in Victoria, British Columbia.
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