The Queen of Bloody Everything is the first book I have read by British author Joanna Nadin, who has an extensive backlist of work that is largely for children and young adults. This is her first adult novel and I think it’s a great place to bridge that divide from children’s stories to adult novels because it is a novel that brings us the life of lead character Dido Sylvia Jones from precocious childhood well into adulthood.
Reading Nadin’s bio it seems that at least some of the inspiration for Dido’s character comes from Nadin herself. The narrative is told by Dido in the first person as she tells it to her mother Edie. This is their story, as remembered by Dido, encompassing a lifetime; of love, laughter, betrayal, disappointment, and fear.
The story opens NOW with Dido deciding how and where to begin. She decides on the day they move from a London squat to their inherited house in Saffron Walden. The day Dido falls in love with the picturesque family next door, beginning with Tom Trevelyan and growing to include his vibrant sister Harry, their meticulous mother Angela and their helpful father David.
Dido and Edie shared a London squat with an ever-changing motley crew of misfits and it’s all that six-year-old Dido has ever known. Dido doesn’t know her father, or who he is, so Edie is all she has ever had and as such, she tries to emulate her; even as a six-year-old. Moving in next door to the Trevelyans gives Dido a whole new look at life and family, and they are exactly the kind of family Dido has always wanted…. a normal one.
We trek through the lives of Dido and Edie from ’76 well into the new millennium and on the way we discover that things aren’t always as they seem. The desirable, normal family next door isn’t as perfect as appearances would have us believe but that doesn’t make it any less desirable.
Dido covets Angela as a mother figure because she craves the discipline, the rules and the expectations that are ever present in the Trevelyan household and at the same time Harry is much more vibrant and free-spirited so loves Edie and is more likely to go to her when she finds herself in tricky situations.
The Queen of Bloody Everything takes us through life in the words of an imaginative and descriptive Dido, in love with the boy next door. Everyone can see the feelings Dido harbours for Tom and for the most part nobody mentions it unless to let her know it’s going nowhere.
We are there for all the major moments in Dido’s life and her relationship with Edie, the highs, and the lows. I loved this look at the dynamics in a less than conventional family situation; the good, the bad and the decidedly ugly.
I enjoyed the storytelling method, I loved the characters and their contrasts but I think I would have quite liked a little more perspective. This is the story of Dido and Edie but we only see Edie through Dido’s eyes, I would have liked to get inside Edie’s head, really get to know her and work out what made her tick. There was a lot more to her than Dido ever saw but I guess that’s the way it is in life; we only ever see our parents through the lens of our experience and how it reflects on us. If we are really lucky sometimes as adults we will be able to look back at our parents and see them with new eyes, from a wider perspective.
The Queen of Bloody Everything is love, life, and family relationships at it’s best, and it’s worst, with moments of warmth, humour and heartbreak. A look at life in Sussex Walden through the decades and many major moments in world events. A book that I really enjoyed and would recommend to readers of general fiction. There are love story elements but this isn’t a romance, it’s a story of life and the bonds between mother and daughter that sometimes stretch, and bend and fray, but don’t often truly break.
Thanks to Pan MacMillan 15 of our Beauty and Lace club members are also reading and reviewing The Queen of Bloody Everything and you can read their thoughts at BOOK CLUB: The Queen of Bloody Everything.