This is my second book toward the challenge and one that was on my original list, I knew I would read it as it is a book club pick.
Three days before her fifty-first birthday, Clio Campbell – one-hit-wonder, political activist, life-long-love and one-night-stand – kills herself in her friend Ruth’s spare bedroom. And, as practical as she is, Ruth doesn’t know what to do. Or how to feel. Because knowing and loving Clio Campbell was never straightforward.
To Neil, she was his great unrequited love. He’d known it since their days on picket lines as teenagers. Now she’s a sentence in his email inbox: Remember me well.
The media had loved her as a sexy young starlet, but laughed her off as a ranting spinster as she aged. But with news of her suicide, Clio Campbell is transformed into a posthumous heroine for politically chaotic times.
Stretching over five decades, taking in the miners’ strikes to Brexit and beyond; hopping between a tiny Scottish island, a Brixton anarchist squat, the bloody Genoa G8 protests, the poll tax riots and Top of the Pops, Scabby Queen is a portrait of a woman who refuses to compromise, told by her friends and lovers, enemies and fans.
As word spreads of what Clio has done, half a century of memories, of pain and of joy are wrenched to the surface. Those who loved her, those who hated her, and those that felt both ways at once, are forced to ask one question: Who was Clio Campbell?
Scabby Queen is one of those books that grabs your attention from the start and then never lets you go, it is a wonderful exploration of a complex and chaotic character. It starts unusually at the end of Clio Campbell’s life and is told through the non-linear perspectives of people that had been a part of her life – family, friends, lovers, acquaintances and one-off encounters.
I have to say I don’t mind a multiple POV but usually I would say there is a limit to what I can keep track of and this book has narration from a lot of characters but actually in this instance I didn’t mind it or find it too difficult to follow which was surprising especially as some of the perspectives only appear once. However, the fact that each was painting a picture of this one character made it easier to absorb as they were encounters that were sometimes focussed on but always intrinsic to giving us a little more insight into the many sides of Clio.
Clio is such an interesting character, she is flawed but real and each new encounter that we read about reveals hidden depths in a way that I wouldn’t have expected but really appreciated, she might not be the type of character that everybody warms to but I liked that she was consistently true to herself and at her heart she was trying to do what she believed was the right thing. I have to say that I find it impressive that even though everything we know about her comes from the perspective of the rest of the characters she still leaps off the page.
There were a few other characters that we heard more from and I also really liked how they developed and that they were always just adding to Clio’s narrative; Sammi was a particular favourite because of how she stands up to Clio and ends up doing what is best for her and finding the strength to do so. Neil was by no means a favourite but I liked how his character was revealed because it suddenly made my feelings about him make sense, you’ll have to read the book to fully understand.
Scabby Queen is a book that I really enjoyed, it is a book with a lot of impact and the ability to inspire retrospection as well as being brilliantly written.