Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

  “I tell you what I know. The world’s damn beautiful. But it’s an accidental beauty. What we do, its deliberate. It’s the one damn consolation you can offer not just you own life, but other lives you ain’t even met.”

Half Blood Blues. One recording made in a dark smoky room by a group of jazz musicians during World War II. A recording that affected each of them in such intimate ways, that the repercussions changed their lives forever.

One early morning, stumbling off a hangover and half sick from booze, two of the musicians, Sidney Griffiths, bass, and Hieronymus Falk, trumpet (the likes of which has not been seen since Louis Armstrong) venture out onto the dangerous streets in search of a glass of milk. Though they know they could be arrested, deported, beaten or even killed, they go anyway. Paris is at war with Germany and young Falk, a German, is arrested and never seen from again.

Fifty years later Sid is invited with another band member, Chip Jones, to be part of a Falk festival in honor of all the genius that was lost when that young man was taken. A mysterious letter sent to Chip starts Sid on a quest for his own redemption, for he had a part in the loss of Falk and though he has never spoken of it, it has weighed on his conscience those fifty years.

This was a wonderfully written book. All smoke, jazz, dark lit bars, the smell of whiskey and the taste of fresh cigars. Beautiful heartfelt music is entwined with love, friendship, betrayal and so, so much jealously. Intense emotions permeate this book’s characters in such great quantities that you can’t help but marvel at the sheer humanity in each, especially Sid. Sid who loves as strongly as he hates, and flashes between the two emotions as quick as any of us. Falk is just a sweet, scared kid trying to do what he loves and getting in the middle of all kinds of trouble without meaning to. Sid teeters dangerously between wanting to protect Falk, despise Falk, hate Falk and admire him for his undeniable talent. The repercussions of which could end up killing one and destroying the other.

Half Blood Blues is an engrossing, heart-breaking tale of love, hate, race, loyalty, betrayal, redemption and most of all, unforgettable music.

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