REVIEW: The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton

In brief: Opal and Nev became famous after tragedy, but their contributions as a duo were short. As a reunion comes closer, a journalist starts to document their careers and discovers new allegations that could change anything.

The good: Very well written and incredibly interesting.

The not-so-good: I missed Opal after I finished the book.

Why I chose it: Sounded like fun, thanks to Hachette for the copy.

Year: 2021

Pages: 360

Publisher: Quercus (Hachette)

Setting: Mainly America

Rating: 9 out of 10

If you’re missing the rock ‘n’ roll life after reading Daisy Jones and the Six, look no further than The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. This story is also about music and musicians, but is more detailed in the context of race, history and culture. It consists of interviews with not only Opal & Nev, short-lived duo of the 1970s, but their record company, rivals, family and fellow musicians. It’s told from the perspective of S. Sunny Shelton, who is interviewing everyone in the lead up to a planned reunion. But Sunny also has her own motives for wanting to know more about that period and Opal. It’s a detailed story with a big reveal that will take your breath away.

The idea of Sunny finding out the truth and what she wants to know personally is a good one. Sunny grounds the reader in the present and then takes the story back to Opal and Nev’s childhoods. On reflection, there are a few clues here of what’s to come. Opal and others are willing to be interviewed by Sunny, while things are more difficult for Nev. He’s gone on to the superstardom of private jets, while Opal has fewer loyal followers. But from the moment Dawnie Walton starts writing, there is a fantastically detailed atmosphere created. The story is told from the first-person point of view through interviews with Sunny offering editor’s insights throughout. We know that each character has their own biases and omissions of the truth, but who is hiding more? As the story progresses, we get insights into more of the characters from everyone else’s point of view, building up to the dramatic event that changed Opal and Nev’s lives forever. When asked about the famous photograph of the pair, they respond in different ways. But it takes another party to shed some light on what might have happened at the concert to lead to tragedy. As Sunny deals with the potential ramifications of what she’s found, she finds herself challenged by both Opal and her mother. How will they all react?

Dawnie Walton’s debut is fantastically detailed, plotted and put together. It’s a story that the reader becomes part of quickly and you’ll be shocked at the end to find that Opal isn’t real (and if she isn’t, at least her outfits should be). It’s incredibly well done, never short on details or atmosphere. The racism experienced by Opal is graphically described, along with the sexism she experienced as a Black American woman (something that is echoed in Sunny’s experiences in the current day).  I did find that as the story was building up to the reunion concert the paced slowed a little, but with so much packed into the first half it’s understandable. The voices of Opal, her sister Pearl, receptionist Rosemary, Virgil (Opal’s friend and costume designer) and Bob Hize were all dramatically different and created distinctive characters in my head. Even the less agreeable characters were distinctive and memorable, even as they did disgusting things. Overall, it’s a memorable novel that shines for the great characters and writing.

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