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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

"An iconic read with a powerful activist voice and a refreshing style and musicality."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a biographical-style novel about the riotous rise to fame of a misfit, interracial, punk duo. Over 40 years on and Opal & Nev are performing a reunion concert at Derringdo Festival, giving respected editor of Aural magazine, Sunny Shelton, the opportunity to write a book recounting their controversial story, a story to which she is tragically linked.

Walton’s documentary-esque novel is an alternate take on 70s era music as we know it but with Opal & Nev as part of the same canon as such artists as Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Walton writes with a knowing ease and such attention to contextual detail, both in terms of the music scene of its day and through its use of setting, it was like reading an actual history of an eccentric, atypical rockstar duo as they strive to navigate the music industry, meet with subdued success, riot their way to stardom and later as they cope with creative and racial differences.

We read about their early life; Opal a headstrong, independent Black girl from Detroit, Neville a bashful white boy from Birmingham, with a passion for storytelling. They both have dreams of making it big despite very different upbringings. Their paths cross at a nightclub in Detroit, where Nev is struck by Opal's commanding stage presence and offers her the opportunity to make punk rock music with him, under the guidance of his music producer, Bob Hize. But their most defining moment is Opal's unflinching actions during a problematic record label showcase in 1971, sparking violent riots with devastating consequences and this forms the basis for the tragic conflict that exists between Opal and Sunny.

Sunny’s characterisation is mainly developed in the ‘Editor notes’ chapters of the story where we learn more about her promising youth, her career as an editor and the complicated relationship she has with Opal; to Sunny, Opal is her idol, she is “the ebony-skinned provocateur, the fashion rebel…the [unapologetic] Black feminist…” but there is bitterness also. Sunny both admires and resents Opal, the Afropunk icon responsible for her broken family. Their fraught relationship had a palpable sense of tension that I loved reading.

Through its interview-style structure, the story is narrated in an oratory, anecdotal fashion which I thought helped to construct engaging characters, each with their own unique voice. Walton includes an array of different perspectives in this fictional biography, from family, friends, music producers, record label managers, activists, journalists and fellow artists which she uses in a finely balanced way to tell Opal & Nev’s story. Each point of view felt distinct to the character that was speaking and gave a clear sense of their own personalities.

I thought The Final Revival of Opal & Nev was an iconic read with a powerful activist voice and a refreshing style and musicality.

Lois Cudjoe

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