Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Dark Notes In A Wartime Jazz World

Well, Mrs W. & I have had our first serious difference of opinion about a book on this year's Orange longlist. Followers of her blog will know that, initially, I couldn't get into this at all:-
However, a good dose of jazz listening did the trick, something clicked, my ear tuned into the jazz slang in which Sid, the narrator talks, & I was off. I ended up really loving this book, unlike Mrs W. who DNF. (I am given to understand that this is Blog-speak for "had enough, threw it aside, donated it to charity/another eager reader, & turned my attention to something else.")
The story follows the lives of a group of young jazz musicians from just before the start of World War II to the German invasion of France. Initially living in Berlin they are forced to flee from Germany only to end up in Paris as the German army invades. Some of the group are Americans & some of them, including the amazingly talented horn player Hiero, are German. Eventually Hiero is arrested by the Nazis & is never heard of again.
Fifty years later, Sid & his friend Chip travel back to Berlin to attend the premiere of a documentary devoted to Hiero. The premiere makes a claim about his fate & that leads Sid & Chip on a journey into Poland & their youthful past.
As they confront the bitter rivalries & jealousies, both in music & love, that sealed Hiero's fate, we learn that events may not have been as they seemed. Or were they?
This novel ticked every box for me &, bearing in mind that I usually heartily dislike stories set during wartime or written in patois or slang; this has to be a tribute to a piece of superb writing. I really cared about the characters & I really wanted to know what happened to them. The book made me laugh, it shocked me (to my shame, I knew nothing about the lives of black Germans in the 1930s and during the war),& it made me forget that it was a "historical" novel. Esi Edugyan has created a group of such wonderful, living characters that you have, in a sense, time tripped into their world & are living their story with them.
A truly fantastic book.


  1. Bleurghhh... I sold my copy at the book exchange!

  2. I'm saving you a particularly strange jazz CD for the short-list annoucement!!! :)

  3. I loved. Mrs W. hated. And now it's on the short list!!!! Who was right?