Half Blood Blues
Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues tells the fictional tale of a group of Afro-German musicians during the Second World War. The story is told by Sid, bass player of their band Hot-Tub-Swingers. Their story starts out in Paris in 1940, with the band just having travelled from Berlin where they were on the run from the ‘Boots’ (aka the authorities). In Paris, Sid and Hieronymus (the trumpet-player) go for a drunken stroll past curfew and Hiero gets arrested by the ‘Boots’ for being a stateless person of Negro descent, while Sid betrays him by hiding in the shadows.
The novel is very much Sid’s personal story of the events leading up to Hiero’s arrest and consequently how he copes, weaving in-between the past and present (the present being 1992 – Berlin). Between the war and 1992, Hiero has become known as a great musician, partly because after he was freed from prison, he suscpiciouslydied. A film and festival were made in his name and we pick up the story when the drummer of the band, Chip, finds Sid in Berlin to invite him to the festival. Chip brings with him a mysterious letter that unveils a whole new set of possibilities, begging the question, “What really happened to Hieronymus Falk?”
Edugyan uses Sid’s Baltimore bar slang throughout the entire novel, creating a real sense that we are there talking to Sid, Chip and the gang, the whole time wondering about Hiero’s fate. Some parts of the novel are shockingly real and show just how horrific the Second World War was, namely their interaction with the Gestapo which, for me, was the most heart wrenching part of the novel. However, Edugyan’s subtle use of wit and romance in the perfect moments goes to show why this novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011.
Guest Blogger: Emma, 3rd Year Student at the University of Wollongong majoring in Marketing and Advertising, Co-op Member since 2010, Social Media Intern.