Disclaimer: An advance reading copy of The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions presented in the review are my own.
The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin. Pan MacMillan.
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publishing Date: 23 March 2018
My rating: 3/5
The Queen of Bloody Everything is the story of Dido Sylvia Jones and her evolving relationship with her mom, Edie. The novel begins in 1976 when Dido is six years old and ends in the early 2000s when Dido is in her thirties. In the beginning Edie and Dido have just moved from London squat to Essex suburbia. All Dido wants is an anonymous, normal life, however, eccentric and exuberant Edie is about the farthest thing from a traditional or ‘normal mom’ as one can get. Early on in the novel Dido falls in love with the Trevelyan family next door. Angela, the mother, is the epitome of a cookie-cutter, Stepford wife; Harry, or Harriet, Dido’s age, is a miniature version of Angela; Tom, Harriet’s older brother, is Dido’s long sought after love interest, and David, the too-kind father becomes more of a father to Dido than any other man in her life.
The novel is written in first-person narrative, from Dido’s point-of-view. Throughout the entire novel Dido writes directly to Edie, saying things like “‘Your call,’ you say, a frequent mantra and one that Harry revels in with its offer of free choice, but one I secretly resent, preferring rules and boundaries so that I know where I stand.” At first I found it difficult to follow the back and forth of Dido’s narrative and her writing directly to, as if talking to, Edie. After a few chapters the back and forth between dialogue and Dido’s direct writing to Edie became much less confusing.
“The mind is a dangerous thing, Edie. Because we can conjure up demons and dragons and devils in disguise.”
Overall, The Queen of Bloody Everything is a quick and easy read. I got through it in about three days and enjoyed it. However, although I found it easy to sympathize with Dido and her relationship with her mother, I also found that the novel read a little bit like the rantings of an angsty young adult who has not fully come to terms with their past. The book is written in a beautifully poetic style that, although I enjoyed, I found served to dramatize Nadin’s writing.
My favourite aspect of the novel was that the reader watches Dido evolve and grow up. As mentioned, the novel begins when Dido is six and ends with Dido in her thirties. Accordingly, the reader views how Edie and Dido’s relationship changes, how the relationship between Dido and the Trevelyan family evolves, and how Dido’s own self-perception is altered. I loved reading about how Dido grew up, how her family life moulded her into the person she became, and how her friendships change over time. By the end of the novel I felt as if Dido was an old friend of mine, like I could recount her entire story and that I understood why she was the person she was. If there’s one thing Nadin has achieved in this novel it is splendid character development.
I also loved the evolution of Dido’s relationship with the Trevelyan family. Not only was the narrative well-written, but it was also artfully conceived of and its evolution was both creative and believable.
The main aspect I didn’t enjoy was the protracted, and sometimes nonsensical, love affair between Dido and Tom. I found aspects of their relationship to be unrealistic, especially as they grew up. Often, I found myself thinking that it wouldn’t have happened that way in reality and that Dido should ‘just get over it.’ I found Nadin’s poetic writing style only dramatized further an already overly dramatic relationship. I also found that Tom and Dido’s relationship took up too central a place within the novel, and could’ve been subverted a little to look more closely at Dido’s self-development instead.
Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in a quick fiction read. If you’re a fan of memoirs or reading about mother-daughter or family dynamics you’re likely to enjoy this novel. It’s an easy read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a quick book.
Happy reading everyone!