Set in Berlin and Paris in the late 1930s and early 1940s, while occasionally fast-forwarding to the present day, Half Blood Blues tells the story of a group of jazz musicians who, on the brink of stardom, fall foul of the Nazi Party’s laws banning so-called ‘degenerate’ music.
The group, known as Hot Time Blues, is made up of a motley crew of musicians – the novel’s African American narrator, Sid Griffiths and his best friend, Chip Jones, are from Baltimore, while the other band members hail from Germany. The star of the show is undoubtedly 19-year-old Hieronymous Falk, an awesomely talented trumpeter, who has recently come to the attention of jazz legend, Louis Armstrong.
Given what we all know about Hitler’s Aryan ideals, it comes as surprise to realise that, despite the vast swathes of material written about this bleak period of history, we know relatively little about the fate of black or mixed race people in the Nazi Fatherland. This novel had the potential to plug this gap in our knowledge … but, unfortunately, it falls short.
'Half Blood Blues' by Esi Edugyan is published by Serpent's Tail