Far from creating a scattershot portrait, a picture emerges of an earthy, unpretentious, needy, selfish, sexy, self-righteous, driven soul who inspires loyalty, sympathy, awe, aggression, frustration and lust.
With sympathetic brushstrokes, Innes captures the tragicomedy of a poorly attended gig in Ullapool (“the hall had been banged together with cardboard in the Seventies and then just left to rot in the weather”) and Clio’s disastrous Robert Burns/grime crossover album (savaged in The Scotsman, apparently), but also grimly lays bare the predatory nature of the music industry and the paradox of squat culture in Nineties Brixton, where women planning to produce their own magazine are still expected to do all the housework.
Innes’s range is as wide as Clio’s passions – from an anti-globalisation group in a mid-90s Brixton squat through to the Scottish independence referendum and Brexit, and ranging from rural Ayrshire to the 2001 G8 riots in Genoa and a yoga retreat on the Greek island of Santorini. The supporting characters are vividly drawn, and Clio herself is always larger than life – although a posthumous credo at the novel’s end fails to convince – and either blazing with self-righteousness or dimmed by depression. This is an opportune state-of-the nation novel with a feminist heart.