Book Review – The Queen Of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin

First published, 2018

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The story follows Dido as she recounts the trials and tribulations of her childhood to her hospitalised mother, Edie. From her mangle-able first name and the cruel nicknames that came with secondary school, to her mother’s bohemian, drunken lifestyle, Dido has spent her life longing for security and discipline and found her mother sadly lacking. With her mother’s inability to leave the room or talk back, Dido has found her opportunity to tell Edie everything that she did wrong as a parent.

Having moved at the age of six from a pretty grim squat in London to an inherited house in Saffron Walden, Dido and her mother find that their new neighbours – prim and proper, Angela, her kind husband, David, and their two children Harry and Tom – are like something out of a fairy tale. Dido soon inveigles her way into the day-to-day lives of the children and has a regular spot at the breakfast bar, looked down on by Angela and indulged by David. Edie stays in her own kitchen, drinking too much, smoking too much, and missing her friends.

Told in second person (I think this is the first time I’ve read anything in second person), it’s as if the reader is the supposedly inadequate mother, which makes it quite hard to read.

Although well-written, the story was much longer than it needed to be – with an awful lot of detail about life in the seventies/eighties/nineties, that could have been abbreviated.

For a character who grew up with so many eccentrics, Dido’s desire for conformity was understandable but her compulsion to blame a possibly-dying mother for everything that had gone wrong in her life was deeply off-putting. She reads like an angry teenager for much of the book, but given that she’s looking back on an unusual childhood from the perspective of a woman in her thirties just made me think that she was entitled, self-obsessed and ungrateful: the exact qualities she accuses her mother of possessing.

Perhaps it says something about how we all turn into our mothers, but Dido’s semi-tragic case of the me-me-mes was just infuriating.

That said, there were some wonderful lines:

“Brighton is everything the postcards promise: tacky and brash and kiss-me-quick, but genteel too, a refined, elderly lesbian of a town, courting a young lover off the estates.”
Page 341, The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin

I just couldn’t get past my deep dislike for the main character.

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