Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan

After seeing Jason’s review over at The Heavy Blanks on Youtube, I just had to pick this book up in the library and read it! As I said in my ‘The Lieutenant‘ review, I don’t usually read a lot of historical fiction but it is a genre that I definitely want to start reading more of.

“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, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought.”

War novels and historical fiction has always intrigued me but in the past, I have found that most literature based in World War II concentrates on the fighting and the soldiers, rather than civilians and the other problems that surrounded the less-known aspects of the war. This novel switches between the group of characters when they were younger, in the war era, and them in the ‘present’ 1992, when they are looking back at their past. I think that it is great that although obviously their lives were affected irreversibly during the war, the book is very character driven and you see how they view aspects of the war and the prejudice that they suffered. This switching between times meant that sometimes you knew what was going to happen before it happened which in most books would spoil bits, but I think that in this case it really added a lot of depth to the plot and the characters.

The first thing that struck me about this novel was the writing style. It is written in a very unique way, completely capturing the language and colloquialisms of the protagonist, Sid. I love the historically accurate details and the mix of facts with Sid’s opinions and thoughts about the events which take place. Once you get used to the way it is written, it flows really well and is paced perfectly, making this an almost effortless and enjoyable read.

This is a unique mix of fact and fiction, full of love, identity, friendship, loyalty and memory. I found this to be an emotional and gripping read full of mystery and heartbreak, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

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