Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It took a long time to get to this book. When it was nominated for the Booker, and then for the Giller prize, it still wasn't available for purchase in the USA. (You can refresh your memory with my rant here.) Edugyan won the Giller prize for Half Blood Blues, and then was also included on the long list for the Orange Prize. I finally tracked a copy down, and I am so glad I did.
Half Blood Blues goes back and forth between 1939 in Berlin, 1940 in Paris, and 1992 in a handful of countries, circling around the world of jazz musicians from the Berlin scene and how their lives were impacted by World War II, particularly Nazi racial politics.
I don't usually gravitate towards war novels, but that is merely the background of the story. The way the author is able to combine dialects from Baltimore to the German-Africans to just the jazz culture - without it being grating - is laudable. More than anything, the characters are imperfect but incredibly likeable, and the ending was amazing.
Plus, it is about jazz in Berlin, which I simply don't know enough about. I would be completely shocked if this didn't end up on the Orange Prize shortlist, with its other accolades as well as my own positive experience.