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  • Book Review: Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes

Book Review: Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes

on 10 February 2021 0

Reviewed by Keira Brown, co-producer of the Paisley Book Festival

After winning Not The Booker Prize with Fishnet in 2015, Lochwinnoch-based Kirstin Innes has exceeded the anticipation surrounding her new novel, Scabby Queen, In fact, five years later, she’s delivered an even better novel than her protagonist, Clio Campbell, does an album in this tome.

Clio, musician, political activist, feminist, takes her life not long before her 51st birthday in her friend Ruth’s spare bedroom and the 400 pages of Innes’ writing reflects on the five decades of Campbell’s life through the eyes of those that she impacted, whether positively or negatively.

With a desire to learn more about this beguiling extrovert, it’s impossible to set this book aside. The development of characters is thorough, with Sammi, Shiv and Xanthe being saviours in the novel, exposing the deep-rooted misgivings or hypocritical sides to Clio Campbell.

In turn, rendering her as something beyond that musician with the one hit track about the poll tax. We grow attached to these characters and are keen to see how they progress throughout the novel, although jumping back and forth in time, with each of the names imperative to this story.

In particular, Sammi has a strong voice throughout Scabby Queen, spending most of the novel struggling to accept and then let go of her past when living with fellow activists Spider and Fran.

Like many in the novel, we crave more from Clio Campbell than she is willing to offer, and Innes’ inclusion of times of uprising such as the G8 protests in Genoa, the poll tax riots and Brexit makes it riveting reading. Fierce and thorough with many rich and complex characters, Scabby Queen is a timely contemporary read. 

Scabby Queen is available now, published by 4th Estate.

The Paisley Book Festival is a partnership between Renfrewshire Leisure and Renfrewshire Council as part of Future Paisley. Future Paisley is an ambitious approach to cultural regeneration that harnesses the power of culture to support positive social change.
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