Title: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Author: Dawnie Walton
Publisher: Quercus Editions, 2021
Dawnie Walton is an American freelance journalist and fiction writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Walton’s status as a low-profile celebrity and storyteller has been significantly boosted by her debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. If you have a watch list for authors, Dawnie Walton is worth putting on it.
From page one Walton draws the reader into the lives of the characters inhabiting this book. Love them or loathe them, you will get to know them.
There are effectively two interconnected narratives running through this book. The most obvious is the retrospective stories of Opal Jewel and Nev Charles, rock stars, who had collaborated, infamously, early in their careers. The second is the personal journey experienced by high-flying magazine editor Sunny Curtis as she pieces together the lives of Opal and Nev for a book intended for publication in conjunction with Opal and Nev’s reunion performance.
Walton has Curtis present the underlying story of Opal and Nev as a series of interviews with them and their contemporaries. This gives the reader a broad view of the pair and is a convenient way of dealing with the expanse of time. Curtis, who is the interviewer, is connected with the Opal and Nev story through the father she never knew. Gradually Curtis learns “the truth” behind the defining incident in the early careers of Opal and Nev.
This is a very complex piece of writing, but a delight to read. It is easy to follow – the complexity comes from the multi-layering and intertwining of the stories of the major characters, including Curtis.
10 books about music and musicians, selected by Rebecca Kauffmanat the guardian
On the bell curve of normality Opal and Nev are both outliers. The struggle for acceptance is a dominant theme. In some ways the protagonist in this book could be the marginalised, and the story arc, how they come to grips with their struggle for a place in society.
To me this book shows us that love, ambition, jealousy, empathy are all common human traits, regardless of background; shades of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice “if you prick us, do we not bleed”. However, there is no stepping away from the everyday struggle of black people, especially women, to overcome implicit bigotry and bias.
I thought Walton did a fantastic job in developing the characters; by the end of the book I was concerned for Curtis, she still has a lot to learn. As for Opal and Nev, I was less forgiving, especially Nev. Opal’s self-honesty is redeeming. This is probably not the result Walton would expect, but each to their own. We value diversity provided it is respectful, which I think is the point of the story.
Reviewed by: Frank Thompson
Ballarat Writers Inc. book review group
Review copy provided by the publisher