Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Half Blood Blues by Edi Edugyan (5/5)

The back says: Chip told us not to go out. Said, don’t you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you.

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a café and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.

Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled.

Half Blood Blues weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong...

I say: I loved everything about this, and it’s definitely one of the best reads of this year and I’m actually already looking forward to re-reading this.

I usually don’t like novels written in vernacular, but there was something about Edugyan’s masterful writing that made me forget about the grammar – it felt like Sid was sitting next to me telling me this story. It was all so exceptionally vivid that I fell deep into their world I didn’t want to let go –

didn’t want to let them go.

There are so many elements touched upon and emotions invoked by this novel that I find it near impossible to define. The fear, the courage, the selfishness, the love, the betrayal, the searching for redemption; all of it splayed across the pages in uneven syntax that we dissect through the eyes of a broken man.

“I was crying soundlessly. I dragged my damn face against my sleeve, feeling ashamed. I ain’t never thought fear had a taste. It does. In that small darkness it was a thing filling my nostrils, thick as sand in my throat, and I near choked on it.” – p 114

It’s a careful and slow journey that begins at the end and fretfully bound by regret unravels the road that lead there, while desperately trying to hold a steady grip on the present. It's so much more that the racial issues and Nazism, it so much larger than jazz and it's so much harder than betrayal.

It’s pure magic.

I could quite easily just start reading this again, but I’m going to wait a few months; get to that place where I remember the emotions and the story, but have forgotten the details and then relive it all over again.


  1. What a great review! I've been wanting to read this for months now. After reading your review, I think I need to buy this now. :-)

  2. Thanks, I really loved this and will recommend it to everyone (in fact, I haven't been able to shut up about it).