The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

by Dawnie Walton

Hardcover, 2021

Call number

FIC WAL

Collection

Publication

37 Ink (2021), 368 pages

Description

"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)

User reviews

LibraryThing member froxgirl
I'm trying to figure out why this novel just didn't touch my heart. The main characters, Opal from Detroit (a Grace Jones type) and Nev, a Brit (not sure about his prototype), should make glorious music together, but racism rears its disharmonious head, in the form of a Lynyrd Skynyrd-type band and
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its biker (see: Altamont) fans. The back stories are pretty good, especially that of Opal and her sister, who probably would have formed a great duo if Opal had agreed to only sing gospel. But the format, which worked well in Daisy Jones and The Six, was choppy here and there were too many characters to follow, even if the author did a worthy job at integrating fictional and real musicians. The narrator's issues are almost intrusive - she's the editor of a music magazine and the daughter of the drummer who was killed during the biker melee - but she's just not nearly as interesting as Opal and Nev, and the big reveal is a bit underplayed and therefore anti-climactic. The writing was enjoyable, but the plot was weak.

Quotes: "I have never been one of those okey-doke, "just happy to be here" Negroes."

"Some genius among them had decided the best way to handle an already hectic situation was to toss teargas, as though they were fumigating for roaches."
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LibraryThing member pomo58
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton is an intriguing and, for those of us who remember this period, nostalgic trip through the struggles of the time as told through the personal struggles of very well-rounded characters.

Walton's style drew me in immediately. Like any good book that
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tries to portray fiction as a real historical document there needs to be an immediate jump into events so the reader doesn't have time to remember it is fiction. I think the use of the "Editor's Note" served this purpose well. These were real people from the beginning, with all of the emotional baggage that comes with that.

I understand that some readers of fiction will be thrown by the format, and that is to be expected with any work that doesn't stick with a standard approach. I would suggest that if you enjoy entertainment biographies and/or books that use interviews to tell real stories, then you won't have any trouble with the style here. This may not be common in fiction but is not uncommon in nonfiction, so if you're familiar with interview heavy nonfiction you will feel comfortable in this fictional world.

As an aside, I still have a hard time acknowledging that times I recall quite readily qualify as a period for historical fiction. I feel so old!

I would recommend this to readers who like fiction that takes place in the entertainment world but that also keeps the human elements front and center while highlighting the social and cultural turmoil of the time.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member Hccpsk
It’s impossible for Dawnie Walton’s The Final Revival of Nev & Opal to escape comparison to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six — both are written in interview style about bands of the 1970s — but Walton deserves to stand alone with this novel. I liked Daisy Jones, but the
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monotony of the style ground me down about halfway through, and Walton wisely combines prose “Editor’s Notes” and longer articles to combat the format fatigue. She is also telling a more important story than just about a band from 50 years ago — Nev & Opal is about racism, then and now. Through Opal, she cleverly builds a character that survived only to find things never changed. An excellent book that explores themes of race and racism within an interesting package of rock and roll and historical fiction.
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LibraryThing member eas7788
I loved loved loved this book. The audio version is amazing, with one of my favorites reading Opal (Bahni Turpin). Walton creates a feeling of verisimilitude -- you'd swear her fiction is actually nonfiction. Opal is complicated, complex, rich, enthralling. Sunny's pov never stumbles. The
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description of Opal's performance is mesmerizing. The ending is excellent.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
It's impossible not to compare this one to Daisy Jones and the Six if you've read both (particularly on audio). I think whichever one you read first (Daisy for me) will stick in your mind as the more original. I felt like this one delved deeper into serious issues, race and addiction, but wasn't as
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fun to follow as Daisy. Taken on its own, I liked this one, but I think it could have been edited down a bit in the middle. The plot gets bogged down with lots of characters and a slow section where not much happens. I loved the character of Opal and her journey to maturity.
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LibraryThing member gpangel
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton is a 2021 37 Ink publication.

Opal and Nev were a dynamic, groundbreaking rock duo during the 70s. But when their recording label signs a group that miraculously makes it onto the music charts, the couple gets caught up in the studio’s attempt to
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book all their artists in the big Rivington musical festival.

Things go awry when the featured group takes the stage waving a confederate flag, prompting Opal to act. When a melee breaks out it leads to the death of Jimmy Curtis, the band’s drummer, and the duo’s promising career…

Nev goes on to success in Britain, while Opal takes a less commercial, excursion into Afropunk music, having taken the brunt of the fallout of the Rivington festival.

Now, there are rumors that Opal and Nev may be planning a reunion. As the first black editor of Aural magazine, Sunny Shelton is set to do a cover story about the duo. But her interest in this story is very, very personal, because Sunny just happens to be Jimmy Curtis’ daughter, and she’s about to interview, Opal- the woman who was having an affair with her father while her mother was pregnant with her…

Well, wow! Just wow!! This book is so realistic that I Googled Opal & Nev to see if they were a real musical duo – or if this story was based on a true story. I had to keep reminding myself the book was fictional!

Nev is certainly a central part of the story, but he’s overshadowed, rightfully so, in my opinion, by Opal.

Opal is quite the character- and while her stylist- Virgil, attempts to steal the show now and again, Opal is absolutely THE star of this show, hands down. She’s outlandish, bold, bald, and outspoken and takes no prisoners.

The story is written exactly as a journalist would approach it- in the format of an oral history. There are many interviews piecing together the events that led to that fateful show and the fallout that followed. But, as the story progresses, it tightens up to a point of supreme, edge of your seat suspense. I was riveted!

The story eventually narrows the spotlight to Sunny and Opal. The author adeptly creates a parallel between them, and their individual struggles, both personally and professionally. Sunny draws strength and inspiration from Opal that she had not anticipated, as the two women come to a special understanding.

Overall, I was drawn to this book by the lure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, set in the 1970s, but the story goes far deeper than a surface rock saga. (Some are making comparisons to other books that feature 70s fictional bands- also employing an oral history format, but, while I may have enjoyed those books, this story blows them straight out of the water!!! NO comparisons, in my opinion- to be rudely blunt) It is so effective, I really, really wanted Opal & Nev to be real people, and still can't shake the feeling that they aren't.

The story explores many angles of women and race, juxtaposing the past with the present with a dynamic style. The story is deep, gripping, and gritty and dazzling. I couldn’t put it down!! It may be early days yet- but I can assure you, this book will be on my list of favorites in 2022.

Highly recommend!!
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Amazing book. Loved the people. The back and forth was a bit difficult but it added to the story. Rock and roll - a black woman and skinny white guy.
LibraryThing member quondame
Almost the opposite of a mockumentary as the new, and first black woman editor of the music trade publication Aural seeks to understand the duo Opal and Nev, and the label that produced the concert 45 years earlier, where her drummer father was killed in racial violence shortly before her birth.
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The largeness and smallness of the individuals, the capacities, limitations and betraying flaws set against the early 70s Manhattan create a compelling story. And the 2016 frame is not a loser either, rare in split timeline books.
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LibraryThing member sriddell
I listened to this on audio because it had an ensemble cast similar to Daisy Jones and the Six.

Also similar to Daisy, this book is a documentary style "behind the music" story of a famous rock duo Opal and Nev (fictional).

The book takes a look back to the late 60s and early 70s. Both Motown and
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the Beatles are at the top of the charts - and mirroring both is Nev Charles from Britain and Opal Jewel from Detroit. This unlikely pair has a very brief 15 minutes of fame, but an underground community of fans has grown over the years. Now in 2016 a reunion is rumored and there's interest in understanding some of the most controversial aspects of their shared history.
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LibraryThing member fastforward
An impressive debut novel. And I'll get this out of the way now, do not shy away from reading this book because you think it will be too similar to Daisy Jones & The Six. Other than using an oral history format to tell the story of a fictional band, they really do branch off in different
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directions. I like both books, but The Final Revival of Opal & Nev definitely tackles tougher topics.

It's the 1970s and Rivington Records based in NYC would love to add some stars to their roster. Aspiring British singer/songwriter and lanky redheaded white male, Nev Charles, is looking for that special someone to join him in making music. After an exhaustive search he sees Opal singing in a Detroit bar. She's a young Black woman, and while she might not have the best voice or a fit that boring definition of conventional beauty, she sure has "it", that presence that all stars seem to possess in spades. That's how Opal and Nev got their start so many years ago. In 2016 the duo might reunite and music journalist, S. Sunny Shelton, is in the process of collecting an oral history of the pair.

Given the title I did assume the book would focus equally on Opal and Nev. However it kinda evolved more into Opal and Sunny's story and I'm glad it did. The strength of this novel is showing racism in both its obvious and subtle forms. It's something that pops up right from the start with Opal as a young girl in Birmingham, Alabama and continues all the way into the 2016 storyline. When you read about the 1970s significant event in the story it makes your blood boil for many reasons. One of those being that fifty years later, that fictional scenario could easily play out in real life.

When I initially finished the book I kept thinking that Nev wasn't a fully developed character like Opal. But my opinion of how Nev was written changed for the better. Now here is where I try to figure out how to express my thoughts without veering into spoiler territory. The best I can come up with is saying the author made a smart choice in how she wrote that character. I think I was too dumb to realize it at first.

Sign me up for any book Dawnie Walton writes in the future. Highly recommend checking this book out.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance digital copy! All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.
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LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
Even though this was done with a full-cast, which is perfect for this mockumentary, I had a hard time keeping the characters straight, which sometimes caused me to loose the plot line.
LibraryThing member Bodagirl
Have you ever gotten a book and thought you'd like it but you just cannot stay focused on it? That is what happened with this book and me. I've been forgetting I started "reading" this book in Nov, until I see it pop up in my current reads. I've finished 10 other books in that time. I might try
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this one at another point, but I'm facing reality right now.
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LibraryThing member Maydacat
This is the story of a young singer who teams up with an aspiring songwriter. It’s all about their success, then their inevitable breakup and downfall, ending with the expected comeback. The story is a flashback, told in short segments by the point of view of many characters. Too many characters,
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too many viewpoints. Readers will be subjected to different recountings of the same incidences too many times. The result is disjointed narrative. The novel is thoroughly laced with gratuitous bad language, which, if eliminated, would probably decrease the length of the novel by 25%. While many reviewers praised this novel, I disliked the writing style as well as the political nature that permeated the book.
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LibraryThing member BibliophageOnCoffee
Loved the story and structure. I hope this gets adapted into a TV show or movie soon.
LibraryThing member Narshkite
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member rmarcin
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member novelcommentary
A journalist by the name of S Sunny Curtis begins to write the story of the final revival of these two musical legends, Opal And Nev. The narrator, Sunny, has recently been promoted to the editor and chief position of a music magazine called Aural. The personal twist to the story is that Sonny's
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father use to be the drummer for the duo and had an affair with the famous Opal. Though that relationship did not break up her parents' marriage, Sunny has a unique connection, especially since she is aware that it was Opal who sent money for her education. Now a journalist, she is looking to write the definitive story of Opal and Nev and their upcoming reunion. The story is told in multiple points of view as we get the narrator recording interviews with the people involved. The writing is good, descriptive, detailing the record business life in the late 60s, early 70s.
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LibraryThing member ghneumann
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
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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.
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Awards

Women's Prize for Fiction (Longlist — 2022)
Audie Award (Finalist — Fiction — 2022)
Aspen Words Literary Prize (Longlist — 2022)
Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize (Longlist — Fiction and Poetry — 2021)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Fiction — 2022)
Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (Finalist — Debut Fiction — 2022)
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year (Debut Fiction — 2021)
All Connecticut Reads (Primary Title — 2023)
RUSA CODES Listen List (Selection — 2022)

ISBN

198214016X / 9781982140168
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