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The Final Revival of Opal and Nev

by Dawnie Walton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6883033,825 (3.81)33
"Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can't imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job--despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar's amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records. In early seventies New York City, just as she's finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal's bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth. Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo's most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything."--… (more)
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» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
This is similar to recent smash hit Daisy Jones & The Six in that it’s told like an oral history, about a fictional musical act, but that’s where the similarities end. This story is deeper and more poignant, about a white man from the UK and a black woman from Detroit who made a few rock’n’roll albums together in the 70s and became notorious when a riot broke out when they were performing. The pacing is inconsistent, but the format keeps it moving along and the story really grabbed me. ( )
  ghneumann | Jun 14, 2024 |
A journalist wants to find out the truth about her father and his affair with the singer Opal Jewel. In doing so, she interviews Opal and other bandmates, as well as others who were either influencers or admirers of Opal. Nev was her bandmate and the journalist questions his intentions and feelings for Opal, as well as his involvement in the incident that killed the journalist's father.
A good introspective on the music scene of the 1970s, as well as the sex, drugs, and the racial tensions.
Interesting. ( )
  rmarcin | May 6, 2024 |
Another DNF.

This isn't terrible, I was not repelled as I was by Daisy Jones or appalled as I was by Eveyn Hugo, but I simply could not have cared less about finding out what was coming next because it could not have been more obvious what was coming next.

I have mentioned before that I do not like these fictional oral histories which have become popular, maybe due to the success of Taylor Jenkins Reid. This format is the saving grace of writers too lazy or mediocre to learn to write dialogue and complex characters. I think I am going to officially make this my last. Actual oral histories are great, I am a big fan of a many and especially the work of historians like Svetlana Alexievich and Studs Terkel, the brilliant Please Kill Me from Legs McNeil, and the spectacularly good oral histories that came out of the WPA (especially the Slave Narrative Collection.) Unvarnished truth is alluring. But in fiction IMO they are just plain lazy, and are an unremitting bore to read. There is no action, no nuance and characters have no concerns or interests that to do not fit into the narrative. It is like paint-by-numbers novel writing. Draft your treatment and then create characters that can be your mediums to speak the words that you need spoken in order to reach the end you have decided on. Every good novelist talks about how at some point they lose a little control because they have created characters that will act as they act, and they (the novelist) then has to go in that direction. That is the opposite of this sort of book, here the characters have no life at all -- they are props. I guess if you like this kind of storytelling this is a good enough iteration. ( )
  Narshkite | May 1, 2024 |
This book is structured as a series of interviews, newspaper clippings, transcript excerpts, and the interviewer's own commentary. Generally, I don't care for novels so constructed but it worked very well here. Dawnie Walton wrote quite a compelling debut novel.

It is 2015. The interviewer, Sunny Shelton, is the first female and Black editor in chief of Aural Magazine, obviously based on Rolling Stone. She is gathering an oral history surrounding a momentarily brilliant avant-garde proto-punk duo and a tragic event that occurred at their biggest show. The tragedy at the center involved Ms. Shelton's father, the drummer backing Opal and Nev.

We meet Nev Charles first, a carrot-topped British singer-songwriter, who moves to New York City to try to make it in the music business circa 1970. He goes on tour to try to find a female singer to team up with and after months on the road, he and his manager, Bob Hize, got to a local bar in Detroit, where Nev sees Opal and Pearl Robinson perform at an open mic event. Pearl is the one with the real voice, but Nev sees something in Opal that compels him to sign her up. They make one album but it does not do well. Their first big opportunity for wider exposure ends tragically in racial violence. While they try touring again after they recover from their physical injuries, their mental injuries from the riot ruin whatever magic they once had. Nev goes into rehab; Opal goes to Paris for nearly a year. The moment is lost. Nev goes on to have a successful solo pop career.

Opal Jewel (she chose Jewel as her stage name) is a complex, interesting central character in this novel. She is revealed to us early in the story through her her outward appearance: outrageous costuming, bright colors, wigs, her shaved head (she suffers from alopecia), but as the interviews unfold throughout, we start to see a little more of her inner self. Decades later, when Ms. Shelton is interviewing people for her story, we learn she, too, is tied to the Opal and Nev story. She is therefore on hand to witness the one last time Opal and Nev performed together, when Opal was in her late sixties.

Ms. Walton uses both the characters of Opal and Ms. Shelton to highlight how this country has never fully reckoned with racism or held its racists accountable for the damage they have done, the atrocities they have perpetrated, the lives they have destroyed. She creates this fictional band and weaves it into the real history of the 1970s beautifully. The only criticism I have is the device of the "editor's notes" because they seemed to interrupt the flow of the narrative. That is the only thing that took away from a perfect rating from me. ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
Slow start but ultimately hard to put down. The story is engaging, and I like the structure of seeing the narrative evolve through the voices of different characters embedded within the larger structure of notes for an oral history the narrator is researching. It takes staggering writing skill to make a structure like that work as compelling reading! As other reviewers said, by the ending I was wishing Opal & Nev – or at least their records – were real.

Thanks to #NetGalley for advance copy. ( )
  LizzK | Dec 8, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dawnie Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ayyar, PriyaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boutsikaris, DennisNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davies, Matthew LloydNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Shields, AndréNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
del Castillo, InesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, JaninaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hardingham, FionaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langton, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miles, RobinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Newbern, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nixon, LeonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sadzin, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, JackieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simonelli, PeteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turpin, BahniNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, SteveNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zackman, GabraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my parents, and for Anthony
First words
Disclosure: My father, a drummer named Jimmy Curtis, fell in love with Opal Jewel in the summer of 1970. For the duration of their affair he was married to my mother, who in '71 got pregnant with me.
Quotations
And for those who are going through the tough times and don't have that kind of strength inside them already? Well, that's all right, because trust me: It can be learned. You just have to copy the right people, and the rest falls into place.
But that image, those symbols, that's what's insidious. Folks rally around that stuff, they claim it, they hurt people like you and me in the name of it.
But then the cartoon starts to pull away from reality, from the three dimensions that make you a human.... And when the laughs run out, you can't suddenly ask in the middle of the show, What happened? What you mean, what happened? That's the monster you made.
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"Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can't imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job--despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar's amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records. In early seventies New York City, just as she's finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal's bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth. Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo's most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything."--

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