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01-31-2012, 11:47 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Toronto
Country: Canada
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Half Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan: The novel won this year’s Giller Prize (given to the author who has written the best work of Canadian fiction in the previous year), but, despite coming up with potentially a very promising plot, it failed to hold my interest. It’s principally about three black jazz musicians playing in Berlin and Paris during the Nazi Occupation. The most gifted of the three is a 20-year-old trumpet player who is arrested by the Nazis and eventually presumed dead. What little of his work that remains on record becomes the stuff of legend, while his two friends find their way back to the States and lead long lives. In their old age they return to Europe to take part in a festival honouring their comrade, only to find that there are some surprises in store, both pleasant and unpleasant. Edugyan was highly praised for her use of black dialect, which is indeed impressive, but the book consists of too many conversations that often merely constitute highly repetitive bickering that, for the most part, doesn’t go anywhere. Further, a whole series of issues are set up but never resolved and expected explanations are not always forthcoming; as a result, the final sections of the novel prove disappointing, as does one of the central characters. Though the book has some strengths, it is hard to imagine that this was the best Canadian novel of the year.

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