Edugyan embraces this biracial theme most strongly in Hiero’s tumultuous past. His father was a black French colonial soldier and his mother, a white German-national. Born on the Rhineland, a contested strip of land between France and Germany, Hiero is considered neither a French or German citizen.
It almost seems too convenient at times that the Swingers are undesirables in the eyes of the German government. But while Half Blood Blues occasionally straddles the realm of plausibility, it never quite teeters into unbelievable territory.
More realistic, however, is Sid’s complicated, layered character. At times he can be seen as jealous and thoughtless, but he can also be fiercely loyal and almost painfully honest.
Even if he is an unappealing person, Sid is perhaps one of the most well developed characters in the book. Hiero, although not perfect, is cloaked in enough intrigue and mystery to keep the reader distanced from him. And Sid’s conflicting feelings towards Hiero also make this distance all the more obvious.
At times it can be frustrating to be so far removed from one of the more mysterious characters in Half-Blood Blues., but it’s this distance is a part of what makes Hiero so interesting. Edugyan allows Hiero’s music to speak more to his development as a character, rather than information about his past.
Sid notes that, “Hiero thrown out note after shimmering note, like sunshine sliding over the surface of a lake, and Armstrong was the water, all depth and thought. Not one wasted note . . . left just the two golden ropes of sound to intertwine.”
This is jazz. And this is why Half Blood Blues deserves all the attention it has received. Much like Sid himself, Half Blood Blues is intensely stimulating, despite its flaws, and a must read for 2011.
— Photo courtesy of TheManBookerPrizes