The Queen of Bloody Everything
As Edie Jones lies in a bed on the fourteenth floor of a Cambridge hospital, her adult daughter Dido tells their story, starting with the day that changed everything.
That was the day when Dido – aged exactly six years and twenty-seven days old – met the handsome Tom Trevelyan, his precocious sister, Harry, and their parents, Angela and David.
The day Dido fell in love with a family completely different from her own.
Because the Trevelyans were exactly the kind of family six year-old Dido dreamed of.
And Dido’s mother, Edie, doesn’t do normal.
In fact, as Dido has learnt the hard way, normal is the one thing Edie can never be . . .
Dido sits with her mother, Edie, in hospital and begins to tell a story. Her story. Spanning the bright, big-haired, nylon-clothed excitement of the 80s to the clinical walls of the hospital in present day, Dido carries the reader through her life, her voice both bewitching in its happiness and heartrending in its sadness, and it begins with her six-year-old self moving from a squat in London to a quiet estate in Walden. She and Edie have left behind the dirt and drugs and bad memories for a fresh start. Possessing a bright, curious mind, Dido is sure that this change is the beginning of their fairy tale, the world of light and colour she seeks in the pages of a book. When she goes through a gate and stumbles upon something magical next door, her future is set, for it is where a boy called Tom and a girl called Harry burst into her life.
Dido likes boundaries. She likes to know what is and isn’t allowed, what she can and can’t do. But with Edie, a woman far removed from the poised, well-spoken, clean-cut Mrs Trevelyan next door, as her bedraggled mother, she is in want of something more, a concrete version of her happily-ever-after visions, a prince to sweep her off her feet and a Wonderland to explore. And if she can’t have what she finds in her books, she wants what they have next door. Sarcastic, soft Harry and gentle, funny Tom who appreciate so little of what they have. Dido would give her left arm to have a mother and a father like theirs, to have a tidy house and clear boundaries, to possess even a modicum of normality. Anything but her grubby house with her drunk, cigarette-toting, foul-mouthed mother. Every day is a fresh chance to disassociate herself from Edie and go forth in her pursuit of happiness. But even as she grows up, the indissoluble bond between herself and Edie proves to be much harder to leave behind.
Through the most part of the book, Dido would replace her mother in an instant. But read a little more, go a little further, and you begin to see that the bond they share belies all of that. It’s something that is very beautiful and very touching. I don’t what to say too much about their journey because it is the crux of this novel’s incredible magic. Joanna Nadin’s writing is superb. Her evocation of not only her sparkling characters but the lively 70s, 80s and 90s, is remarkable. I could read books by this author forever and be a very happy bookworm!
For me, at the heart of this book, is a tale of second-chances, of family and survival, of finding a way of sparring with defeat and coming out victorious. But more than anything it is a portrait of a mother and daughter and their journey of love and understanding, even if it takes lots of false starts and many years to find it. The Queen of Bloody Everything is a powerful, nostalgic, beautiful book, whose characters will retain a small place in your heart even after you finished it.
Honest. Evocative. Poignant.
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About Joanna Nadin:
A former broadcast journalist and special adviser to the Prime Minister, since leaving politics Joanna Nadin has written more than seventy books for children and Young Adults. She is the author of the bestselling Rachel Riley diaries, the award-winning Penny Dreadful series, the Flying Fergus series (with Sir Chris Hoy), and the Carnegie Prize-nominated Joe All Alone, which is currently being filmed for the BBC. She is a winner of the Fantastic Book award, has been named Blue Peter ‘Book of the Month’ and Radio 4 Open Book ‘Book of the Year’, has thrice been shortlisted for the Queen of Teen award, while Spies, Dad, Big Lauren and Me was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. In 2011, Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny prize. The Queen of Bloody Everything is her first novel for adults.
Huge thanks to Sam Humphreys and Mantle Books for my review copy!