Saturday, January 28, 2012

BOOK: Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, 308 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5; Giller Prize Winner 2011; Man Booker Shortlist 2011

Esi Edugyan has been aptly recognized for her wonderful book, Half Blood Blues. The way she strings together the phrases and descriptions of music was wondrous. The slang of an American blues man living in Germany in the early 1940s was smooth, all those janes and jacks and licorice sticks. Here she has Sid Griffiths, the narrator, describe Delilah as she sings:

She swung the thick, strong rope of her voice round the words, coming down hard on them, cinching them together. Then she flung the notes bold up in the air, high and horn-like. But her voice was at its core a sailor's voice, rough and mannish. Her notes bitter croaks, filled with muddy regret. p 122

Made me want to listen to some blues music.

There are several sections to this novel, both past and present. There's late 1930s Germany (grim) and then the escape to Paris by most of the members of a blues band, including Hiero 'The Kid' Falk, the genius black German trumpeter. Time in occupied Paris is told forward and back, and in some ways reminded me of Suite Francaise, it felt so real. Sid is not the genius musician that Hiero, or even Chip, his buddy, which leads to some jealousy and decisions that Sid must look back on. He's telling his story sixty years later, through older eyes.

A well-written collection of characters set during a fractious time.

TA Publishers left me a link to a discussion, and a playlist picked out by Esi Edugyan