You tell me a story is about music, and I’m in. You tell me the audiobook is narrated by a full cast, and I’m already in love and hooked. This is the (fictional) history of the group Opal & Nev from the 70’s, told through interviews and notes from the “editor” writing this book, and of their possible reunion in 2016. I highly recommend listening to this one!
Title: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Author: Dawnie Walton
Genres: Historical Fiction, Music, Contemporary
I went into this not knowing too much about it, and that’s how I would recommend you go into it as well. If you like music of any type, you’ll like this one. I see comparisons of Opal & Nev to Daisy Jones & The Six, and while both books do tell a fictional music history of different groups, Opal & Nev is very, very different from Daisy Jones, and the characters are nothing alike – the similarities end at the music aspect and the fact this is best listened to as an audiobook.
Journalist S. Sunny Shelton, a Black woman and editor in chief of a magazine, decides her next project will be to interview Opal Jewel, Neville Charles, and everyone associated with them and their band from the 1970s, as there are talks of a reunion show happening, and she believes their history is worth telling. This story takes place in the present with characters telling their point of views in various years in the 1960s and 70s, when ‘Opal & Nev’ began.
Opal is a young Black girl in the 70’s, coming of age and knowing she has a voice on her, but not knowing her place in the world, both as a singer and as a Black woman. She is vocal about the racism she faced both in the early parts of her life, being in the group with Nev, and in present time, 2016.
Neville Charles is a British man who decides to try and make it big in the States with his songwriting and guitar playing, but when a record label picks him up, they feel he needs something else in his act, which leads to finding Opal and asking her to join up and sing with him. As a white man, he can never truly understand what Opal has ever gone through as a Black woman.
Opal, Nev, and all the others mentioned all felt like well developed characters. We heard a lot about their lives and that helped them all feel real and dimensional. There is plenty of drugs, alcohol, sex, and rock & roll in this book, as you would expect from the seventies. This story is about the music, but its also about life which includes racism and politics. There are a lot of happy joyous moments in this book, but there are more serious discussions had as well.
It’s honestly hard to believe this is fiction while you’re reading it, it all feels so real and I want to look up this band and these people and learn about them – but alas, this isn’t a real band. That says a lot about the author that Walton can make you feel how real this story is.
Incase it wasn’t obvious already – I highly highly highly recommend listening to this one as an audiobook! It’s a little confusing at first, with “editors notes” having me stop and go, “Huh? Like, the editor of the book?” before I realized this is S. Sunny Shelton. There are a lot of characters, but their names are said before each time their point of view comes across, and you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. I don’t think this book would have been the same and would not have given me the same feeling if I read it on page – an oral history like this is meant to be listened to.
I actually had to listen on a slower speed than usual, I was on 2.0x most of this book – I wanted to hear each characters speak so the slower speed helped when it was many different voices.
I highly recommend Opal & Nev if you’re a music fan, like I am. I don’t play or sing myself, but I love experiencing live music and this book gave me those feelings. I’m giving this a 4 out of 5 stars overall because I did love it, but as I mentioned, the formatting took some getting used to and I don’t know how I would’ve felt about it if I had just read it, rather than listened to it. This was still a lot of fun and I always enjoy stories about music – no two are ever the same.
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