Longlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011
The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, travels to Berlin, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero's fate was settled.
As a non-American I had a great deal of trouble understanding what was probably a very authentic Baltimore accent. I would have kept trying, but the story didn't engage me either so I abandoned halfway through.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Half Blood Blues the most enjoyable?
Kyle Riley as the reader is perfectly cast . The novel is told in the first person, and Riley makes a completely credible main character. He delivers the perfect blend of melancholy, honesty, and regret. Wonderful.
What did you like best about this story?
Half Blood Blues powerfully evoked the dissolution and fear of Berlin in the 1930s as the Nazis gained power. Moreover, the point of view is utterly unique - we see this sad and sinister world through the eyes of a black American musician.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
The scenes of the musicians in hiding in Berlin, dodging the Nazis as they try to find visas which would allow them to escape.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
When Sid realizes that he is is good, but not good enough to be called on by Louis Armstrong for a recording session. A great moment of resignation and bitter humility.
Any additional comments?
Kyle Riley as the voice of Sid Griffiths is a wonder. He elevates an already fine novel to true brilliance.
It's a nice novel - very unusual in content and style, and rewarding for a jazz lover. Yet, two things are annoying - one is the plot meandering and lack of depth of message; it is not a book that holds your attention, though it is well-written. Second, the reading is awful - sounds like a fake African-American accent. Its cadences sound so inauthentic that it jars. Also the language doesn't match the voice. It is Eng Lit sophistication with some argot thrown in - an uncomfortable mix that just doesn't work.