I’m pre-studying various novels as I prep for working on my own. In between research about the time and place, I’m digging through some of my to be read pile – and today I found a real treat. I’ve opened Half Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan.
Within the first few pages, I was hooked, totally hooked, so much so my plan to do my taxes today is shuffled aside for a glorious immersion in the book. What caught me so quickly?
The first sentences:
Chip told us not to go out. Said, don’t you boys tempt the devil. But it had been one brawl of a night, I tell you, all of us still reeling from the rot – rot was cheap, see, the drink of French peasants, but it stayed like nails in you gut. Didn’t even look right, all mossy and black in the bottle. Like drinking swamp water.
What devil? Out from where? Why are they drinking French peasant rot? What’s the dialect I’m hearing?
The next paragraph gets better, more atmospheric, more visual. More auditory, even, with more dialect and turns of phrase and phrases that make you go, huh? and want to know more more more. I’m already invested in the main character by the second page, all twitchy and nervous like he is, not sure quite why yet, but wanting to know.
This is how it’s done. Fabulous. No wonder this book won all those prizes – Giller, short listed for Man Booker, GGs, Writer’s Trust…
This one’s a keeper, for reference when I’m writing. If I can only capture a bit of this magic…