[Book Review] Half-Blood Blues

Unlike my father, I’m not a huge listener of jazz music. So, I only know a few artists from that genre, and mainly just guitarists. Weirdly enough, I’m much more interested in jazz’s history than the music itself. Jazz had a dark past, one that was tied to racism, and that has always fascinated me. So, when I learned about Half-Blood Blues, a novel about Nazis and Jazz, I just have to read it.

Half-Blood Blues tells that story of three black musicians. Two of the men, the bassist and the drummer, are African-Americans who fled the US to try and make it in Berlin. Together with “Hiero”, a half German, half Senegalese, who is a virtuoso trumpet player, they try to record a song, a jazz parody of a popular Nazi anthem, while eluding capture in Nazi-occupied Berlin and, later, Paris.

One of the things I love about this book is that music flows from it. The characters’ speakeasy slang gave this book life and color that I’ve not seen in other books. The way they talk, you could almost hear jazz music on the background as well. Its setting, which I was really after, also didn’t disappoint. It really showed the hardships of being an outcast playing “degenerate” music under a totalitarian rule.

I really enjoyed reading Half-Blood Blues. I’ve never read a novel such as this before, which is about history, music, race, love, betrayal and brotherhood. It’s a great, great book. One that I’d recommend to all, especially to lovers of music.

Score: A-

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