Shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Winner of the 2012 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize
Winner of the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
Longlisted for the 2013 International Impac Dublin Literary Award
Shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2012 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
Finalist for the 2011 Governor General's Award for Fiction
Finalist for the 2011 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice pick
Amazon.ca Best Books of 2011: Top 100 Editors' Picks
A Quill & Quire Best Book of the Year 2011
A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2011
One of the Vancouver Sun's top ten books of 2011
A San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book
Amazon.com Best Books of 2012
A Historical Novels Society Editor's Choice for February 2012
One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2012
An Amazon "Best of the Month" Pick for March 2012
Globe & Mail Book Club Inaugural Selection
The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice
- 16 - 20 March 2013, Bookworm International Literary Festival, Beijing, China
"Though "Half-Blood Blues" is a jazz book, its greatest strength lies more in the rhythms
of its conversations and Griffiths' pitch-perfect voice than in any musical exchanges.
A simple, one-word sentence that could be just an expletive - "Hell" - becomes so
much more as Griffiths watches Nazis march into Paris under "that dancing black spider,"
and his dazed account of a band of weary survivors coalescing around Hiero's
"Half-Blood Blues" is intoxicating enough to send you crate-digging through a
record store's back room for anything like it. "This was it, this was everything,"
Griffiths says with a delirious awe that nearly excuses his unforgivable selfishness.
"We was all of us free, brother. For that night at least, we was free." If there's a
better description of jazz and its brilliant, in-the-moment power, you're not likely to find it."
"[N]imble storytelling. [Edugyan] tempers the plot's 'Casablanca'-style melodrama - did a
wartime love triangle lead to Falk's betrayal? - with healthy doses of quotidian banter, admirably
capturing the bickering camaraderie of the young musicians."
New York Times
"History is at the core of Esi Edugyan's brilliant second novel, Half-Blood Blues. Told in the jazzy
patter of Sid's first-person monologue, which makes the Nazis into 'Boots' and every woman a 'jane,' even
the well-known prelude to war feels intensely lived in... Swinging back and forth between the eras, this
book - which won Canada's Scotiabank Giller Prize - is both lively and imbued with regret..."
"Esi Edugyan's excellent Half-Blood Blues sets its sights on the jazz musicians who flourished
in Berlin during the cabaret heyday of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s and found themselves
endangered after Hitler's rise and Goebbels's proscription of what he called 'Jewish-Hottentot
frivolity.' ... [A] tense, well-wrought novel."
The Wall Street Journal
"The story hurls us from Baltimore, to Berlin, to Paris, to an obscure Polish town -
as breathlessly as that trumpet player finishing a long, heartfelt riff. From bleak, violent
cityscapes, it shifts to the troubled souls of the musicians as they tend the pure flame
of art and the impure fire of jealousy. It's history, and it's timeless."
The Seattle Times
"[A] bold imagining of a hitherto little-regarded corner of the black Diaspora..."
"[A] soaring, engaging work that brings to convincing imaginative life an all-but-forgotten segment of jazz history."
San Fransisco Chronicle
"[A] beautifully controlled novel."
"Edugyan has written a great book that will hit readers on a multitude of levels"
Free Range Reading
Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle “Recommended Books”
John Grooms, Creative Loafing
"[Half-Blood Blues] leads the reader through a fascinating world alive with passion, music and the spirit of resistance."
BC Book Prize Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize Citation
Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Paste Magazine
Edward Cone, Library Journal
Kristen Hannum, Historical Novels Review
"Half-Blood Blues is a richly rendered, poetic work... The storytelling is subtly hypnotic as
we get pulled into the past lives of the principle characters, and the Europe of the late '30s and
early '40s that is painted here - with its smoky jazz clubs and sidewalk bistros - is richly rendered.
For a female author, Edugyan...deftly gets the cadence of men, and how they talk to one another,
pitch-perfect. This makes Half-Blood Blues a startling crystalline read, and one can spend
a few good hours just getting lost in the rhythm of the language and the backstory...A hot
blooded novel certainly worthy of reading."
Zachary Houle, Pop Matters
Zara Raab, City Book Review
"Much of the power of this unforgettable novel comes from the way its racial
themes echo. It is very difficult to perceive and articulate the twisted skein of
emotion that is black experience - and yet that is just what Edugyan manages to
do with this brilliantly conceived, gorgeously executed novel. It's a work that
promises to lead black literature in a whole new direction."
The Globe and Mail
"Half-Blood Blues shines with knowledge, emotional insight, and historical revisionism,
yet it never becomes over-burdened by its research. The novel is truly extraordinary in
its evocation of time and place, its shimmering jazz vernacular, its pitch-perfect male
banter and its period slang. Edugyan never stumbles with her storytelling, not over
"Edugyan makes fresh tracks in this richly imagined story."
"[A] powerful and atmospheric novel...I could hear clearly the voice of
the narrator as it lifted off the page and feel his confusion and pain as it
followed him through his life. This is one to watch and would be a memorable
book group read."
"Half-Blood Blues is both an epic, sweeping tale and an intimate portrait
of human frailty. The result is a compelling piece of work indeed."
"Half-Blood Blues is impressively evocative of period and place, and an
effortlessly involving and dramatically unusual second novel"
Time Out (London)
"A superbly atmospheric prologue kick-starts a thrilling story about
truth and betrayal... [A] brilliant, fast-moving novel."
The Times (UK)
"As befits a novel about music, Half-Blood Blues is a stylistic delight.
Sequences set in the 1940s capture a rhythmic patois, while sequences set in
the 1990s employ a considerably more formal, though richly inflected, voice.
The novel is far more than an exercise in style, however. It is a quintessentially
human story, rich in well-drawn characters, primal emotional conflict, and a
battered, flawed camaraderie. It is an exploration of the impact of history on
individuals, of how moments of grace get lost in a world of hatred, how fear
imperils any sense of dignity, and how friendships can form between the most
disparate people. It is a stunning, powerful read, a compelling story brilliantly
told, and well-deserving of its inclusion on both the Man Booker Prize shortlist
and this country's own Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist."
Quill & Quire
"Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan is the most substantial work of fiction to
incorporate successfully jazz within its pages since Rafi Zabor's The Bear Comes
Home and is, in many ways, a more ambitious work than Zabor's ursine novel which
won the 1998 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction."
"This is a novel of layers, too: a mystery, an examination of romantic and
artistic failures and successes, a period piece, a celebration of jazz and, at
times, an engaging delivery of vernacular poetry. Above all it is immensely readable..."
The Literary Review of Canada
"While the rarely explored subject adds to the book's allure, what stands out
most is its cadenced narration and slangy dialogue, as conversations, both spoken
and unspoken, snap, sizzle, and slide off the page."
Publishers Weekly (Starred)
"Edugyan tells this incredibly rich story of music, politics, and personal
betrayal both subtly and dramatically, unveiling the mystery of what happened
to Falk as she exposes the tensions between the band members and the secret that
has been gnawing at one of them for half a century...Edugyan's novel mixes palpable
period atmosphere with an interpersonal drama of great emotional depth. That narrow
moment in time when the freewheeling decadence of Weimar Germany gave way to
jackbooted tyranny has been the subject of much fine fiction, but Edugyan is
the first to overlay it with jazz history. It makes a sublime marriage ."
"A memorable evocation of the defiant thrill of jazz at a terrible time."