Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan - Fiction

Half-Blood Blues: A Novel
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan is a story about African-American Jazz players making their mark in the music clubs in Germany and France during the WWII. Edugyan, the author, takes the reader on a journey of memory lane through the musings of one of these Jazz players. They are in their senior years as they recollect their struggles, joys and experiences of being in Europe just before the War broke out, during the War and their return to America.

Through vivid and detailed descriptions the reader is taken into the streets of Germany and France, while experiencing the anxiety of walking in alleyways as the Nazi soldiers patrol the streets. The reader gets a sense of the personalities of these Jazz players and their interactions with the people in Germany and France. These interactions can be both good and not so good depending on the situations they encounter.

The author weaves in a Canadian Jazz singer who leads these Jazz players to France to meet up with Louis Armstrong. The group, with the exception of one of them, is chosen to cut a record with Armstrong. All of this happens amidst bombs being blasted within earshot. Specific details of wartime horrors are intermingled within these music recording scenes.

In the early ‘90s two of them return to a united Germany to visit one of the group members who was not able to join the Americans on their way home to America. It was a reunion of sorts in a vastly different Germany.

Edugyan adeptly keeps the reader engrossed in the lives of these Jazz musicians. She takes the reader from one time period to the next with in depth descriptive prose and lively dialogue with many lessons learnt on what it meant to be an African-American in Europe. It is a very good read!

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