So, I am inadvertently following on from our last post with the colour theme although slightly less festive and more reflective of the post-Christmas spirit.
As a gift for my birthday every year I receive the short list for the Man Booker Prize. I have reached the half way point in the 2011 list and have been so far, rather disappointed with this year’s offerings. There have, however, been two slight glimmers in an otherwise disappointing darkness. The first was ‘The Sisters Brothers’ which was a happy tale of the Wild West, the search for gold and of brotherly love in its loosest sense. The other, which I will talk a little more of below was ‘Half Blood Blues’ by Esi Edugyan.
The novel covers several different time periods from 1930s Berlin to fairly modern day via the occupation of Paris. Without giving too much of the plot away, the story revolves around a group of jazz musicians from a diverse background and is narrated by a Baltimore-born bass player. After the capture and confinement of their star trumpet player in Sachsenhausen at the beginning of plot, the remainder leads the reader through the events leading up to the arrest and also a reawakening for Sid many years later.
The story is one of creativity and interest. One can feel the tension in both Berlin and Paris as people begin to realise the dangers that they face with the onset of the war. With jazz at its core, there is a fabulous parallel between the music and the state of Europe. Edugyan’s descriptions of the jazz that the band play makes it almost audible and one can smell the smoky dingy bars of pre-war Berlin. Each member of the band has their faults as become clear through the plot and as the members begin to drift apart, the music appears more fractured as well.
Whilst the language can take a little getting used to (although not to the same extent as Pigeon English or Room) and given the nature of the tale, one cannot say it is pleasant but nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and informative read. It almost makes one want to go and search for Louis Armstrong vinyl….almost.