Ciska's Book Chest

I am an eclectic reader with preferences for crime/thriller/suspense, historical fiction, literature and contemporary fiction. For more books and other bookish posts visit my blog at Ciska's Book Chest

Half-Blood Blues

Half-Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan 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. Fore more information visit, 1939. The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. After being in a fight with some of the SS they fled to Paris trough Hamburg. By that time they arrive in Paris they already lost 3 of the 6 members of the band Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris café in 1940. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black.Berlin, 1992. 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 film’s premier, Sid’s role in Falk’s fate will be questioned by Chip Jones, a person he thought was a friend. 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.Throughout reading this book I listened to various Jazz artists from that era including Louis Armstrong. The whole atmosphere in the book is so well put down I felt like having some good music in the background. It worked well making the atmosphere even stronger both ways. The book really appealed to me because of the story though there seem to be more and more stories about black people during the second world war. It is like there are enough books about Jews and war heroes that they had to look at other groups that had a hard time during the war too. Still because of the setting and the music I wanted to read it.The story is told from Sidney Griffiths point-of-view, he is the bass player in the band The Hot Time Swingers, not the most talented but very enthusiastic. The band has 5members to start with. Paul and Fritz are German musicians and forming a band together with Sidney and Chip who come from America but moved to Europe cause the Jazz scene was promising and growing. They are joined by Hieronymus Falk, born from a German mother and African father. They play in a Berlin club called the Hound owned by Ernst on of their best friends and more a manager to them. Somewhere around 1939 the Nazi's ban different kinds of music from being played including Jazz. The musicians still stay in Berlin hoping for better times when they find themselves in a fight with some police men and Chips kills one. They hide at the Hound and are joined by a lady Delilah Brown who is connected to Louis Armstrong and invites them to come to Paris with her. Ernst takes them to Hamburg where his father arranges papers for them to escape to Paris where they join Louis. Throughout the story a lot of them make wrong choices and have to pay for them eventually. Sid's biggest mistake is that he makes it impossible for Hiero to be able to escape his faith and ends up being arrested. In the documentary made about Hiero this is point out by Chip that he still blames Sid for the fact the most talented trumpet-player is arrested by the Germans even though Sid still thinks at that point he could not help it even though deep down inside he has the feeling he should have done more. When Sid finally realizes it is his fault he wants to come clean, but how will that be possible with Hieronymus being dead... or?I highlighted several parts in the bookWhen Sid is confronted with the way Chip feels what he did to Hiero and the way this shows in the documentary Sid thinks about the time they where kids and growing up in Baltimore. He noticed Chip was easy at lying and wonders if this was just Chip trying to be more interesting than he is. What is funny about Chip being a real liar according to Sid though is that Chip said something before that has to do with letters from Hieronymus but though Sid has doubts about that he does not think about the time they where kids and Chip was lying all the time.At some point in the book it seems everything is against Sid. He looses the girl he loves, he looses his spot playing music with Armstrong and he has the feeling he has Hieronymus to blame for all that. At this point you do get the feeling Chip is right and Sid did it all on purpose. On the other hand you get the feeling you know the character so well at that point the he is not capable of doing something that awful.It is clear the author put a lot of effort in investigating the situation for musicians in that era. Also the position of Afro-American and Afro-German whom had different statuses in Germany.I would recommend this book if you like Jazz and the late 30ies or stories about the war. There is some romance in the book too but in the end the story is about friendship, trust and trumpets.