(Thomas Allen Publishers, 2011)
A wonderful novel by Canadian writer Esi Edugyan about a group of American and German jazz musicians who meet-up in Berlin and Paris during WWII-era Europe to make wild, joyful music before the Nazis kick it to pieces. A legend is born when, years later, a lone tin box is dug out of a wall in a flat containing a never-before-heard vinyl recording.
The story jumps back and forth in time, from 1939 to 1992, as narrator Sid Griffiths recounts memories of his past. This is an emotional story, and Edugyan brilliantly captures the pain, the resentment, the guilt, and the jealousy that Sid feels throughout his journey. Days after putting the book down, I was still stuck with a deep sense of sadness.
The language of the novel, told in the slang used by musicians of the time, took a few pages before I was able to catch the rhythm but once I did it flowed like cool jazz and made for an engaging read. I would highly recommend Half-Blood Blues to history and music buffs alike.