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Wine & Book Group Pick for Feb-Mar 2012

abstract:Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan won Canada's highest honor, The Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2011. Esi was also longlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction and the Ethel WIlson Fiction Prize. That is a lot of final lists! Take a peek as Esi is awarded her prize at the Giller Prize ceremony followed by her interview on Canada AM.

The author's website describes the novel as: "Berlin, 1939. A young, brilliant trumpet-player, Hieronymus, is arrested in a Paris cafe. The star musician was never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.

Fifty years later, Sidney Griffiths, the only witness that day, still refuses to speak of what he saw. When Chip Jones, his friend and fellow band member, comes to visit, recounting the discovery of a strange letter, Sid begins a slow journey towards redemption.

From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, Sid leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world, and into the heart of his own guilty conscience.

Half-Blood Blues is an electric, heart-breaking story about music, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.

article:

April 14, 2012

Reviews

"With Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan has written a truly beautiful novel. With perfect pitch, and brilliantly in tune with the diction, musicality, suffering and dignity of Black jazz musicians trying to survive in France and Germany during World War Two, and to hold their lives together in the aftermath of horror. It is both taut and expansive, like great jazz. Exquisite language, throughout. And did I say beautiful?"
Lawrence Hill, author of the award-winning The Book of Negroes

"The characters in Esi Edugyan's stunning novel bring to mind Mark Twain who understood characters like these... the language of Edugyan's narrative moves us with its intrinsic power, grace, and soulful jazz cadences. Half Blood Blues is an engrossing and unforgettable story."
Austin Clarke, author of The Polished Hoe and More

"Simply stunning, one of the freshest pieces of fiction I've read. A story I'd never heard before, told in a way I'd never seen before. I felt the whole time I was reading it like I was being let in on something, the story of a legend deconstructed. It's a world of characters so realized that I found myself at one point looking up Hieronymous Falk on Wikipedia, disbelieving he was the product of one woman's imagination"
Attica Locke, author of Black Water Rising

About the Author

Esi Edugyan was born in Calgary Alberta where she was raised by her Ghanaian immigrant parents-both locations are oil and gas industry hubs so it seems likely that there is a connection . She studied Creative Writing in Victoria and Johns Hopkins University and has held fellowships in the US, Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain, and Belgium. Her first novel The Second Life of Samuel Tyne was published in 2004. She began writing Blues on a while in a Writer in Residence program in Stuttgart Germany. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband, author and poet Steven Price, and their daughter.

Wine Pick

Since this book is set in Germany renowned for its white wines we decided to Google "wines, Stuttgart" and hit the jackpot! It turns out that Stuttgart has a 1000 year old viniculture history and Germany itself has 13 different wine growing regions. The state capital of Baden-Württemberg is not only the largest wine-growing community in Germany, but also the location of the country's nicest "Wine Village". Learn more about the Baden wine growing region here. Here is an excellent 3 minute video tutorial from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, a worldwide education institute, well worth a click!

As early as the 3rd century AD Roman emperors planted vineyards all over Germany. By the 16th century Stuttgart had already become one of the largest wine-growing communities in the Holy Roman Empire. Today, the main wines grown in the Stuttgart region are the popular red Trollinger, Spätburgunder and the exquisite Lemberger, and spirited white wines such as Riesling, Kerner, Silvaner or Müller Thurgau. The state capital of Stuttgart is the only German city with its own municipal wine-growing estate, with some 17.5 hectares of vineyards spread over six different locations. And the countless awards that Stuttgart's wine growers receive year after year are proof of the fact that they are masters of their trade. In 2010 the Weinmanufaktur Untertürkheim took second place in the magazine Vinum`s German Red Wine Award in the category 'Cuvée'.

The nicest way to make the aquaintance of the local wines must surely be a visit to one of the many merry wine festivals held annually all over the Stuttgart region. From August to September connoisseurs and wine-lovers from all over the world meet at the popular 'Stuttgart Wine Village', one of Germany's biggest and best wine festivals. In the heart of the city on the marketplace and Schiller Square round about the Old Palace, outstanding wines are served in nostalgically decorated arbours. There are 500 different wines from Baden and Württemberg to sample. Stuttgart`s chefs serve regional cuisine, a selection of Swabian specialities such as Kässpätzle (cheesy noodles), Maultaschen (filled pasta squares) or Schupfnudeln (potato noodles) with sauerkraut - to name but a few. To decifer German wine labels click here for the 10 bits of information you can garner off each label - typical German efficiency!

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