Cover Image: Scabby Queen

Scabby Queen

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I don't have much to say about this one; I thought it was fine. As a novel, Scabby Queen relies on its multiple--and many--perspectives to tell the story of Clio Campell, who we find out, in the first chapter of the book, has just committed suicide. But I don't know...I just didn't enjoy the constant shifting between the POVs so much. Some of them were one-offs and others were from recurring characters, but either way I grew weary. I also didn't particularly like the ending. I'm not very well-versed in activist issues, but something about the kind of activism that the end of the book puts forth didn't strike the right chord with me.

Not a bad book, by any means, but also not a great one.
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Scabby Queen is utterly exquisite. It’s clever and poignant. It’s atmospheric and nostalgic. It’s political and punchy. The cast of characters is exceptional, with protagonist Clio Campbell shining through with her fiery personality, her extraordinary voice, her flaming red hair and slash of lipstick.

I loved the narrative structure of the book, how each section was told from the perspective of someone connected to Clio: from Neil to Donald, Ruth to Danny, Hamza to Sammi, as well as so many other fascinating and complex characters. Some loved and idolised her, others hated and envied her. Many felt these emotions all at once. Some knew her intimately and others judged her from afar. Some knew Clio her whole life, whereas others only met her briefly. Some characters feature several times throughout the novel, crossing paths with Clio at different stages of their lives, changing their opinions of her. Other characters only have one short section, one glimpse into her life. All these differing interpretations of Clio weave together to create a stunning character driven narrative. We learn about Clio through the perceptions of those around her. Assumptions are made about what she’s feeling and thinking, they misinterpret her expressions and actions, their opinions of her influence how they portray her. We don’t really get to view the world through Clio’s eyes, yet she is a vibrant, raw and three-dimensional character. She is uncompromising and passionate whist being riddled with insecurities. The complexity of her character is unveiled not through her dialogue, but through the subtleties of her expressions and the things she leaves unsaid. It’s a testament to Kirstin Innes’s writing that she can build such a vivid protagonist through the lens of other characters’ perceptions. Also integral to the structure of Scabby Queen is the way the text jumps backwards and forwards in time. We see Clio as a young woman navigating the music industry, and then suddenly we’re launched back into her childhood. One chapter might examine Clio in her forties, then the next takes us back to her teenage years. Through this non-chronological structure, layers of stories and experiences build to form Clio’s character. I loved that the details of her life unfolded in this way, as it made the narrative far richer and more complex. Sometimes Clio will be recounting a story that we later find out is false when we’re transported to that moment in her history and discover what really happened. Other times we struggle to empathise with her, then several chapters later we gain more of an insight into her past and so better understand her feelings and actions. People are shaped by their experiences: through the characters’ stories they paint the picture of Clio’s life, while demonstrating how they themselves have been shaped by her presence, her friendship, her love and ultimately her death.

I’ve tried my best, but no review I write will be able to do this outstanding novel justice. Scabby Queen has quickly become one of my favourite books and will stay with me for a long time.
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Clio Campbell is a one hit wonder and political activist, who dies by suicide after turning 50.  This is the story of her life, told through the eyes of those who knew, loved or hated her.  It spans from her upbringing between two very different, separated parents in the midst of miners strikes and folk music in a Scotland stricken by Thatcherite politics, to her brief fame as a beautiful young pop star with an anti-poll tax rally cry, to her messy adult life struggling with the injustices of the world around her and the struggle to hold on to her music and sense of self.  I adored the way pieces of her life slowly slotted together through the memories and experiences of those around her.  At first the sheer number of characters and time periods were a mystery, but as it all came together I too loved and hated Clio for the impact she had on others, and the toll it took on herself.  The cultural references and underlying story about a group of idealistic but often misguided squatters in London made this book so rich, and the story of Uncle/Godfather Donald really broke me.  Clio is, ultimately, not a warm or likeable character, but when you understand what it was that drove her political rage and musical decisions, you can't help but feel some compassion for her.  This book is a real gem.
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Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes is the story of child Folk prodigy, one hit wonder and activist Clio Campbell from birth to death and afterwards. Wherever Clio goes other people's lives are affected as she crashes through life driven by almost fanatical idealism and lack of compromise while underneath she is plagued by self-doubt and depression. Clio is both a driven menace to those who come into her orbit and a rather sad character wondering why most of those in her life (usually quite sensibly) eventually distance themselves from her. 
This is a book that covers so much from Clio's early life as the darling of the Scottish Folk crowd when she first sings in public as a child through her brief stab at fame, disastrous relationships ,time spent with squatters and activists in London and eventually as someone either hailed as a nostalgic blast from the past or an embarrassing has-been depending  on the prevailing point of view. 
The characterisation is superb, Clio is often not remotely likeable then the reader empathises when once again she's burnt her bridges and finds herself alone or when another episode in her life is revealed and you see quite why she's the way she is. As in real life characters who seem awful show a softer side that they're hiding and sympathy for others crashes as the facade slips and something loathsome crawls out,reporter Neil for example who puts her on a pedestal but takes advantage when he gets the chance in possibly the saddest and most depressing sex scene ever written. He later takes advantage of their friendship in other ways and is a pretty loathsome character.
If you're not interested in politics then this won't be the book for you and the one flaw I found in what is an amazing piece of writing was that the characters often launch into speeches on their political views bordering on lectures and I started skimming after a while. The politics are an important part of the book ,the backbone of it in fact,but a bit of judicial editing wouldn't have gone amiss . 
The ending is quite stunning and suddenly all kinds of things about Clio and her character are revealed that lift the scales from the reader's eyes.
A great book that will make you think,shudder at times and alternately sympathise and dislike  Clio as she turns yet another life upside down as they enter her chaotic orbit at first thinking her almost messianic then seeing the flaws and hypocrisy. underneath all the brashness is a deeply flawed woman who is still the damaged child of her younger years.

Thanks to Kirstin Innes, 4th Estate and Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.
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This is the story of Clio Campbell, political activist, singer and one-hit-wonder. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that in the beginning of the novel, at nearly fifty one years old, Clio kills herself, in the spare room of her friend Ruth’s house. The novel then examines Clio’s life, through the eyes of those who knew her, and those who didn’t, and in so doing reveals a larger, political narrative. It’s an exploration of the life of a woman and her ‘value’ in the eyes of Society , but also of a different, better time, politically, and how we got to where we are now in post Brexit Britain.
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This book was an incredible story based around a complex and interesting character. I loved the non-linear storyline, which shows how much one person can affect the world they live in and the people they encounter.
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It's hard to put into words the sheer exuberant power of Scabby Queen. It's a novel about one person's life, and a celebration of the impact an individual can have on others and the world. It shows us where its protagonist came from, and it shows us how her influence continues to spread after her death. It also shows us the mistakes she made, the things she got wrong and the people she hurt – because that's life. And it's a feminist novel about activism, community and society (but not, lest that sound offputting, in a preachy way).

It opens with the suicide, at 51, of Clio Campbell, a minor celebrity (known for a hit anti-poll-tax song in 1991) and political activist. Jumping back and forth through the decades, the book employs a large cast of narrators to tell the story of Clio's life; some are close friends, others are people she met only once and very briefly. I often find that these kinds of stories reveal much more about the narrators than they do about the central character. Not so here: Clio bounds from the pages in full colour, brilliantly complicated, sometimes hard to like, but never less than 110% alive. It's her friends' and lovers' stories that remain incomplete. I mourned the loss of each character in turn; wished I could read a whole book about each and every one.

Particularly inspired is the perspective of Neil, a journalist with an unrequited crush on Clio, whose admiration eventually morphs into something uglier. Here, Innes gives us the best bad-sex scene since Kristen Roupenian's Cat Person, and goes one better: she tells it from the point of view of the man, yet the woman's experience rings through loud and clear. There's also Sammi, whose story I think is the most powerful – Sammi who is collateral damage in one of Clio's crusades, and who can never forgive her. I appreciated the inclusion of this viewpoint so much; I appreciated its openness, the way Innes lets Sammi go off and be her own person, rather than bending her story to fit Clio's.

A wonderful book, one I read hungrily, wishing there were hundreds more pages. Awe-inspiring writing of the kind that is both utterly accessible and tremendously meaningful. Really, truly loved it.
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I loved Scabby Queen. Like a rougher, Scottish, political Daisy Jones & The Six. I grew up in the West of Scotland in the 1990s and this novel captured it all brilliantly. The politics, the accent, the fights, the family, the music. It was home. And God love Clio, whit a wummin.
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This was a brilliant read. It's hard to find the words to describe how brilliant and enthralling is.
The style of writing, the weird and engrossing plot, the great characters: all these elements makes this story excellent and a great read.
Strongly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a very different take on looking at someone's life from other people's views and perspectives.
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A whirlwind of a read Clio Campbell  dead in the opening scenes .A look at the wild life she lead through the eyes of those who k ew her.A book so involving found it hard to put down a compulsive read grab this book,#netgalley#4thestate
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"How did you do it? How did you use words, black on white with a finite limit, slotting into a pre-designed space on a page, to describe what a person’s life had been?"

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Telling the story of a single life through the lens of various friends, lovers, and acquaintances, Scabby Queen is non linear storytelling done right. Clio Campbell is flawed, impossible to hate entirely but also impossible to really get behind. Her road to hell is paved with good intentions but she is selfish, manipulative, childish and parasitic. Obsessed with worthy causes, we follow Clio along with seemingly unconnected narratives that begin to merge into a collective story of one whirlwind of a life. It brilliantly illustrates the fingerprints that we leave on people every single day, the ripple effect that comes from just being alive and in the world. The author also touches on world events and pop culture, footnotes in the passage of time that occasionally even include real world figures. 

It's possible this may be a divisive story because there are no good guys or bad guys, and no neat bow to tie up the final act. There's no love story or happy ending. People live, then they die and all that's left is how they are remembered by the people that touched them however briefly.
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I really loved this deep dive into the life of Clio, an activist and musician, following her suicide. Pieced together with accounts of Clio from family, friends, acquaintances and press clippings, and moving backwards and forwards in them, this novel gives a multi-faceted picture of a protagonist that manages to remain unknowable despite all we come to know of her. With excellent political credentials, and some Scottish settings that I know really well (including the hospital I was born in and still attend), I highly recommend Scabby Queen. My only small criticism would be that in some of the narratives the characters would begin to reflect back on previous encounters with Clio and I would occasionally lose track of time and have to flip back (harder on a Kindle!) but that might just be my rubbish attention span. If you’re at all interested in music, politics or Scotland, read this when it’s published in April.
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Scabby Queen is a novel about a complex woman and how she is seen after her death. Clio Campbell had a big hit with an anti-poll tax song in the early 90s, lived a life of political activism, and killed herself just before her fifty-first birthday. In the wake of the news, friends, lovers, and acquaintances think about the Clio they knew, and the key moments in her life, music and sex and politics. The question for everyone, and for the media coverage, is who was Clio Campbell?

This is a novel of epic scale, moving non-chronologically and across the perspectives of a wide range of characters who knew Clio to get across the complexity not only of her life, but how people view a (somewhat) famous woman and a political woman. As ever with this kind of narrative, it was confusing at first but once you start to pick up the recurring characters it gets easier to engage straightaway with new sections. The book was clever in how it presented people's views of her political action, often devalued by characters who remember more about her looks, personality, or singing. Snippets of media articles were used throughout as another way at looking at her public image, though it wasn't until the end that the importance of her media image came to the forefront.

Scabby Queen is a clever novel that is clearly making statements about how woman are viewed both in the public eye and out of it. However, it didn't quite come together and the pacing didn't always work so sometimes the reading experience dragged a bit. It is an interesting look at the complexity of trying to make a difference and different ways that people do and don't fit in which says a lot in the modern age of social media.
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I really liked Fishnet so I was keen to read this. Scabby Queen has some passing similarities to Fishnet- they both tell the stories of a remarkable and unconventional  women recounted after their deaths, but Clio- the mian character of scabby queen, is in many ways different to Rona. The book is dleiberately unsetting, it jumps around in time, and shifts perpectives to tell Clio's story, encouraging the reader to consider pertinent and sometimes difficult issues. I think it is a worthy succesor to Fishnet, and marks Innes out as a talent to watch.
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"Scabby Queen" spans decades and contains many big themes which Innes handles skilfully and sensitively. There's a lot of jumping between timelines and perspectives which can be a little disorientating. Clio Campbell is a feisty, feminist protagonist whose life unfolds in layers (I love that she has Sally Bowles fingernails!). The supporting cast are also well-drawn throughout. Kirstin Innes is a strong voice in Scottish fiction and has captured the post-Independence referendum mood perfectly. I also liked that she shows how incredibly frustrating, exhausting and all-consuming activism can be. The novel evoked a whole host of emotions for me and partly summed up why I've given up social media and now choose my sources of information wisely. "Scabby Queen" is a cracking read and provides plenty of food for thought. It's a massive air punch in book form. I loved it!
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3.5 stars

Opening with the suicide of one hit wonder Clio Campbell,the book skips in time,over the last 50 years,and references some big events in recent uk history,showing who she was and the impact her life had on others.
At times I felt sorry for her,at others I would have quite happily slapped her had I been a character in the book.
Definitely a memorable one.
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