This is a very different kind of story than most set in World War II. There is a history for music, but most of it involves the Beatles. We are usually given a quick glimpse of old bands that may remind you of The Wiggles, but it can still be interesting. There was mostly jazz. In Half-Blood Blues, the story transitions between the first year of World War II, to 1992, when more people from the World Wars were alive than today. The story is told through Sydney Griffiths, a young jazz player for the "Half-Blood Blues" band, whom have a similar feel to Greasers. Here, most of the story explains what happened before the first sixteen pages of the book, with the Afro-German of the group, Thomas Hieronymous Falk (Hiero as a nickname) is arrested by Nazis, and like every story with a person being arrested with the others, well, not, he gets killed. And then it turns out in 1992 that he is still alive, with the drummer of the past band, Chip (Chuck Jones...actually, nobody really knows what his name is, only that it starts with a "C") guiding Sidney through the past, whilst we understand how they ended up from Berlin to Paris.
None of this is very original or interesting, with every chat or day stretched to the breaking point. The book is also entirely in slang, an old language that sounds the way a dull drunkard would express things. It's clear that black Canadian Esi Edugyan has been very committed to this project, when it battled in a Book Peace Prize against others. Hitler invaded Paris in 1940, right after the band smuggled themselves there from Berlin to try to get away from Hitler. Before another transition to 1992, the group (still grieving about a man of the group lost, not Hiero yet) have a face-off with machine guns and hungry dogs, which gripped me, but it was over as soon as it began. Most of this book feels like reading a chat at a dinner table, where nothing really seems to be happening. I play the clarinet, and I enjoy music, but they surprisingly barely discuss matters about it.
In short, I'm not sure what Esi Edugyan was trying to do. What category does this book fall into? I have no idea. I'd be surprised if this book got the Young People sticker, not because it's offensive, even if they say the Canadian Delilah will be okay because she's Canadian, which doesn't make sense when she's in enemy territory, and there's a smelly zoo featuring hungry people in it. I'd be surprised because to read this and enjoy the beautiful paragraphs that I may never have the talent to do, it takes patience teenagers like me don't have.