“Half-blood Blues” is one of those on-the-beat, award-winning, must-read books and this time I actually read it while it was on-the-beat and did not leave it to mature in my library, but I was not completely blown away.
The story is unfolded in two tempi: up to and during World War II, when the musicians of a jazz band flee Berlin and come to Paris and in 1992 when two of these musicians return to Berlin to attend a festival for a fellow musician, who was taken by the Nazis in 1945. I did not find the story that compelling. Furthermore, the two main characters in the 1992-plotline really tested my patience, albeit in two different ways.
I do agree in the novel’s must-read status nonetheless. “Half-blood Blues” is definitely original; I have never read or heard of another novel about the struggles of jazz musicians during the Reich or the plight of blacks or half-bloods regardless of their nationality during the Nazi regime. This was the eye-opener for me.
Also the narrative style deserves mention. “Half-blood Blues” has a patient narrator in a reluctant participant in the story, who “ain’t got much book-learning” mixed with slang that rings true to both jazz musicians and the time. As a wannabe writer, I can only imagine how difficult this effect is to accomplish. Respect, Esi.
I would recommend “Half-blood Blues” to the literati who enjoy peeling back the layers of the novel in order to achieve a nuanced reading experience.