‘Tis the season for book awards. Last week Esi Edugyan’s novel Half –blood blues was awarded the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Award. This novel has been nominated for other big awards as well, so we may be hearing about it again.
The novel focuses on the time periods from 1939 – 1940 and 1992. The main characters, “Chip” and “Sid” are young Americans who travelled to Germany in the late 1920s to pursue careers as jazz musicians. Their bandmate, Hieronymous Falk (“Hiero”), is a brilliant trumpeter who is of German-African descent, and dark skinned. During the 1930s it becomes increasingly difficult to make a living in Germany after the Nazis brand jazz as “degenerate”. On the eve of war, the trio escapes to Paris where they find temporary relief. Unfortunately, this is shortlived. Heiro is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. Decades later, in 1992, as their former bandmate is honoured, Chip and Sid must face their past, and their guilt.
This novel has been described as “an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art”. The library holds a copy of this title, so check it out.