Originally published: 19 March 2019
Author: Candice Carty-Williams
Published by: Trapeze
Length: 392 pages
Reading dates: 19-23 July 2020
Sometimes I feel frantic. And I feel like everything has just spun out of control, out of my hands? I don’t know. I feel a bit like for a while I have been carrying ten balls of wool. And one ball fell, so I dropped another to catch it, but still didn’t catch it. Then two more started to unravel, and in trying to save those I lost another one. Do you know what I mean?
25 year old Queenie is a black British Jamaican woman living in London. As we join her story, she has just found herself on a break from her white boyfriend Tom and has just suffered a miscarriage. Determined they will be back together before long, she moves into a house share in order for them both to have some space but she isn’t coping very well and she finds her life unravelling.
She has a strong set of female friends (known as the Corgis) – Cassandra whom she met at University and helps her out with money and very matter of fact advice, childhood friend Kyazike, who still lives with her mum and has some hilarious dating stories and Darcy, her colleague and partner in crime at the newspaper where they both work. But despite this, Queenie seems hell bent on destruction, having casual and dangerous sex with various men to help with the pain of Tom’s rejection.
As things spiral out of control, Queenie finds herself having a nervous breakdown and living back with her grandparents, trying to get her life back on track.
A fantastic female centred story, this put me in mind a little of Bridget Jones (which can you believe was published 20 years ago!) Being a black woman is tough but Queenie isn’t looking for sympathy. She suffers racism every day, from the men who describe her skin as like chocolate, the women who think its OK to touch her hair in a nightclub and the snide comments from Tom’s family. I loved how the author didn’t protect us from Queenie’s sexual experiences but I felt shocked and sad for her that she was taking such a destructive path.
I loved her group of friends – Kyazike in particular was brilliant. Very matter of fact but wonderfully caring too, she is just the sort of friend you want on your side. I also liked Queenie’s rather dysfunctional family. We hear how she is estranged from her mum after something that happened in her childhood. She has an aunt who is heavily religious and a niece who makes her feel old but secretly looks up to her. And her grandparents are brilliant – they appear on the surface to have no sympathy or patience for the fact Queenie is struggling but deep down we can see they love her deeply and want what is best for her.
I treated myself to a signed edition (with pink sprayed pages!) of Queenie last year, back when I had no hope of fitting it in because of the all the blog tours I’d committed to. Fast forward to July 2020 and I’m still not great at saying no to blog tours, but I also wanted to read the books from the 2020 Comedy Women in Print Shortlist before the winner is announced in September, so made time for it and I’m so glad I did.
I thoroughly enjoyed my brief time with Queenie – she is a character I would like to see more of and I believe if she wanted the author could write a sequel in a few years time. An excellent and timely book, Queenie recently won Debut Book of the Year and Book of the Year at the British Book Awards which is totally deserved.
About the author:
Candice Carty-Williams is a writer and author of the Sunday Times bestselling Queenie. Queenie has been described as ‘vital’, ‘disarmingly honest’, and ‘boldly political’, and has been shortlisted for the Waterstones, Foyles and Goodreads Book of 2019, as well as selected as the Blackwell’s Debut of the Year. In 2016, Candice created and launched the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, the first inclusive initiative of its kind in book publishing. Candice has written for Guardian, i-D, Vogue International, every iteration of the Sunday Times, BEAT Magazine, Black Ballad and more. She will probably always live in South London.