Canada Reads·Canadian

Half-Blood Blues

Esi Edugyan's acclaimed novel centres around the disappearance of Hiero, a talented young black German jazz musician, at the hands of the Nazis in Occupied France.

Esi Edugyan

A vivid evocation of Berlin and Paris during the Second World War, Half-Blood Blues centres around the disappearance of Hiero, a talented young black German jazz musician, at the hands of the Nazis in Occupied France. His friend and fellow musician, Sid, is still struggling to come to terms with Hiero's fate 50 years later. Half-Blood Blues is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.

Half-Blood Blues won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize that same year.

Donovan Bailey defended Half-Blood Blues on Canada Reads 2014.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews | More about this book

From the book

See, we lay exhausted in the flat, sheets nailed over the windows. The sunrise so fierce it seeped through the gaps, dropped like cloth on our skin. Couple hours before, we was playing in some back-alley studio, trying to cut a record. A grim little room, more like a closet of ghosts than any joint for music, the cracked heaters lisping steam, empty bottles rolling all over the warped floor. Our cigarettes glowed like small holes in the dark, and that's how I known we wasn't buzzing, Hiero's smoke not moving or nothing. The cig just sitting there in his mouth like he couldn't hear his way clear. Everyone pacing about, listening between takes to the scrabble of rats in the wall. Restless as hell. Could be we wasn't so rotten, but I at least felt off. Too nervous, too crazed, too busy watching the door. Forget the rot. Forget the studio's seclusion. Nothing tore me out of myself. Take after take, I'd play sweating to the end of it only to have Hiero scratch the damn disc, tossing it in the trash.

From Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan ©2011. Published by HarperCollins Publishers.

Author interviews

Giller winner Esi Edugyan

12 years ago
Duration 5:44
Edugyan talks to CBC about being surprised by her numerous award nominations, interesting discoveries during her research and the challenges of blending historical fact and fiction.
Esi Edugyan discusses Half-Blood Blues with Shelagh Rogers.

More about this book

Canada Reads 2014: "Half-Blood Blues" by Esi Edugyan

9 years ago
Duration 1:04
The book trailer for Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. Donovan Bailey is defending Half-Blood Blues during the Canada Reads debates.

Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan on growing up black in Alberta

8 years ago
Duration 1:27
Esi Edugyan, the Canadian novelist, and author of the award-winning book Half Blood Blues, shares her thoughts on Black History Month.