After two, or maybe three false starts, I finally made it through Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues. Usually, I wouldn’t be so dogged in reading a book that didn’t seem to be working for me, but the combination of vinyl record on the cover & LeAnn’s review gave me the extra persistance I needed. I’m glad I stuck with it.
In Nazi-occupied Paris Sid Griffiths, Hieronymous Falk, and The Hot-Time Swingers are working on recording “Half-Blood Blues.” Hiero, aka the kid, is a trumpet-playing genius who was smuggled out of Germany by Chip and Sid, childhood BFFs from Baltimore. Hiero’s kind of a perfectionist and destroys take after take of their record. One night, Sid hides one of the records before Hiero can wreck it. That’s the same night Hiero is taken away by “the boots” while in search of a glass of milk. He’s never heard from again.
Fast forward to 1992 and ol’ Chip and Sid are about to embark on a trip to Germany to attend the premiere of a documentary about Hiero and “Half-Blood Blues.”
The story then zooms back and forth in time, where we learn about the events that lead up to Hiero’s capture and what happens when Chip reveals a devastating secret about Sid in the documentary.
Holy buckets is this a riveting, beautiful book. Plot wise this novel is totally aces, but the best part isn’t even the plot or the story about friendship, jealousy and redemption. The best part is the language.
Edugyan captures that hipster-jazz speak so wonderfully that my inner-monologue has been narrated by Sid Griffiths for the past week. All men are Jacks and all women are Janes and everyone who is a bit sassy is a Buck.
And while Sid’s voice is great, it’s the way she writes about music that makes this book such a winner and a joy to read. Edugyan writes so wonderfully that I could eat my own arm out of pure jealousy. It’s amazing and mesmerizing and so fantastic I want to fall into her sentences and stay there forever. I want to give this book to every chump who has ever tried to put music into words. She just nails it.