Day 1004: Half-Blood Blues

Cover for Half-Blood BluesIn 1939 Paris after the German occupation, Sid Griffiths and the members of the Hot Time Swinger’s American Band have just finished cutting a record when Hiero Falk, German but black, is picked up by the Gestapo and never seen again. In 1992, Falk, now considered a jazz legend on the basis of that one recording of the “Half-Blood Blues,” is being honored with the opening of a documentary in Berlin. Sid quit playing years ago, but Chip Jones, another member of the band, talks him into attending.

Chip has been Sid’s frenemy since childhood. He’s a great musician, but he’s also a liar. When he and Sid get up at the opening to talk about Hiero, Chip blindsides Sid with terrible lies about him and Hiero to the audience. The problem is, Sid did do something shameful to Hiero, just not what Chip accuses him of.

After the presentation, Chip talks the reluctant Sid into traveling to Poland. He has found out Hiero is alive and has even corresponded with him. As the two travel by bus into Poland, Sid thinks back to the events of 1939.

This novel is written in African-American vernacular that sounds fairly modern, even for the part from World War II. It takes a little getting used to, although I am not sure if it is accurate for the time. Certainly, the novel effective re-creates the feeling of the time and place, and the precarious existence of these young musicians.

This novel was on both my Walter Scott Prize and Man Booker Prize lists. It was another book that I may not have chosen on my own but that I enjoyed reading.

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10 thoughts on “Day 1004: Half-Blood Blues

  1. Helen December 2, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    I still need to read this one for the Walter Scott Prize and have been putting it off because it didn’t sound very appealing to me. I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed it – hopefully I will like it too!

    • whatmeread December 3, 2016 / 11:51 am

      It’s very different from the others I’ve read, not that there is much of a pattern.

  2. Cathy746books December 3, 2016 / 4:00 am

    I have this one and have started it a couple of times but never really got into it. Must try again…

  3. FictionFan December 3, 2016 / 8:00 am

    Hmm… I was thinking it sounded interesting till you mentioned the vernacular – I often struggle with that, especially if it’s not a vernacular I’m terribly familiar with. I’m glad you enjoyed it though! 🙂

  4. whatmeread December 3, 2016 / 11:44 am

    You might be familiar with some of it just from watching TV and movies. I was more concerned about whether it was authentic to the time. It really wasn’t that hard to understand.

  5. whatmeread December 3, 2016 / 11:45 am

    It’s probably not for everyone, but it does get pretty dramatic at times.

  6. Naomi December 3, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    I’m glad you liked this. I read it a couple of years ago, and although there was something about it that didn’t bowl me over, I can see why it got so much recognition. It’s great for someone into the jazz scene.

  7. whatmeread December 3, 2016 / 6:48 pm

    It took me a while to get into it, but I ultimately enjoyed it.

  8. annelogan17 December 6, 2016 / 2:29 pm

    I’m embarrassed I haven’t read this Giller winner yet. I’m a horrible Canadian!

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