The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

One of my most anticipated books last year was The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, the debut novel by Dawnie Walton. As a huge fan of music (including punk), and as someone who cares deeply about politics and social issues, this is a book I knew I needed to read. Throughout this month, my reading challenge has been to read books about Black musicians, so what better time than now to dive into The Final Revival of Opal & Nev?


If you’ve ever read long-form interviews with musicians, like in a Rolling Stone magazine, perhaps the first and most exciting thing about The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is how it’s formatted. It reads like an oral history of a much-loved 1970s proto-punk band. I’ve read a few oral history books in my time (one about punk, one about grunge), so it was a real treat to read a novel written in such a format.

Like any true oral history, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev goes back to the beginning early on. We get to know both Opal and Nev as they were before they ever met, her a poor girl with few opportunities in the US, him a well-off and college-educated young man in England. Interestingly, both are from a Birmingham: Opal is actually from Detroit, but spent some formative summers in Birmingham, Alabama. Nev is from Birmingham in England. (Fun fact: One of my favorite bands, Editors, are also from Birmingham, England.)

This book gets so musical, especially into the early punk space of the 1970s, and I love how much music and the music industry are explored here. I enjoyed getting to see the artistry that goes into composing the songs, seeing how the musicians record the first album, and how Opal and Nev each find their own voice. For Opal, in particular, this creative expression also translates to how she dresses. It’s fun seeing her become more bold in her fashion choices and in owning her space. This visual aspect, in turn, relates to the business side of things, too. How are they marketed? What kind of deals are available to this unlikely duo? In what ways do the business side of the industry create problems or restrict them? (I have a master’s degree in music business, so this whole realm is right up my alley! As is the music itself, of course!)

Beyond music, the other major pillar of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is how political themes are interwoven, both in the 1970s and in 2016, when the interviews are being conducted. We see themes of racism that Opal faces: The racist band and their confederate flag and how she’s constantly vilified for simply wanting to be treated equally and with respect. I love how vocal Opal is about social rights—for Black people, the gay community, abortion rights, AIDS treatment—and that this outspoken nature appears in her music, her onstage performance, her interviews, and her everyday actions. She’s so strong and confident and empowering. I wish she was a real person. And then I love how that is reflected in the present day times, when Sunny is interviewing everyone in late 2015 and 2016. We see it in the 2016 election cycle, but we also see it in how she’s treated, as a Black woman who recently became the Editor at a music publication. Even with four decades between them, Opal and Sunny both face racism and pushback in their respective careers.

Speaking of how amazing Opal is, I must say that Dawnie Walton did an excellent job of developing the different voices of each character. They all feel so vivid and distinct. And this isn’t just true of the titular characters—for example, Nev sounds legitimately English—but also the other characters, too. Virgil LeFleur and Howie Kelly come to life on the pages. I really enjoyed the different flavors we get, both in terms of people hailing from various cities and countries and in the distinct personalities we get from each one. Some characters are quite unlikeable (I’m looking at you, Howie Kelly and Chet Bond), others are charming, others are so kindhearted… it’s a rich array of lifelike characters.

This whole book is a wonderful piece of escapism, the kind that feels transportive yet so real. It makes me feel like there really is a duo called Opal and Nev and that I’m a huge fan of theirs.

Final Thoughts

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is an immersive and powerful novel that music fans will adore. With its unique format, standout characters, and resonant messages, it’s both timely and memorable. This has been one of my favorite recent reads, and I look forward to reading more from Dawnie Walton.

Now if only I could listen to Opal and Nev’s music!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy The Final Revival of Opal & Nev here – it’s available as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
GenreHistorical Fiction; Music Fiction
SettingUnited States; England; France
Number of Pages358
Format I ReadHardcover (BOTM)
Original Publication DateMarch 30, 2021

Official Summary

An electrifying novel about the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo in the 1970s, their sensational breakup, and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite decades later for one last tour.

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.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

About the Author

Dawnie Walton

Dawnie Walton is the author of the novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, a “spectacular debut” (Publisher’s Weekly, starred review) that has been named one of 2021’s most anticipated books by EssenceVogueThe Oprah MagazineElleThe IndependentLit HubPopSugarThe Millions, and Hypebae. Her work as a fiction writer and journalist explores identity, place, and the influence of pop culture. A MacDowell Colony fellow (2015), a Tin House Scholar (2017), and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA, 2018), she has worked as an executive-level editor for magazine and multimedia brands including Essence, Entertainment Weekly, Getty Images, and LIFE. A native of Jacksonville, Florida, she lives in Brooklyn.

More Music Fiction

The Violin Conspiracy

Late last year is when I first heard about The Violin Conspiracy, the debut novel by Brendan Slocumb. As soon as I read the summary,…

Rate this:

The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes

One of my most anticipated releases of May this year was The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod. I was pleasantly surprised…

Rate this:

The Fugitives

I have NetGalley to thank for introducing me to The Fugitives by Jamal Mahjoub. While perusing the upcoming books, I discovered this novel about musicians…

Rate this:


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: