One of the things I’d most like to do this year is read more books by black authors. Not just educational books but fiction as well.
Queenie’s cover caught my eye in the window of Waterstones just before lock-down – and with time on my hands recently, I was finally able to pick it up… and I really enjoyed myself.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.
She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?
Queenie is a joy – the book itself but also the deeply flawed character. She might not be able to catch a break but she’s honest and very real. It’s interesting also to read something all too familiar – at the heart of it, this is a rom-com/coming-of-age story like so many before it – but its told from the perspective of a black woman, who has a very different life experience to my own. I appreciate the book for opening up my eyes to situations and environments I will never understand first hand.
The writing flows well and it’s easy to forget you’re reading fiction as Queenie comes to terms with her relationship break, friendships and new found casual sex life. While her world starts to unravel and she’s forced to tackle her own mental health issues (despite her grandmother being ferociously against therapy), Queenie gets into trouble at work – and has to find a way to save the ‘career’ she’s worked so had to cobble together in the first place.
I liked Queenie but I am fully aware she might not be everybody’s cup of tea. At times she is frustrating and self-involved but she’s also funny so I’m okay with that. Who isn’t sometimes? The general message of this story is that Queenie needs to rely on herself before anyone else and when she begins getting to grips with seeing a counselor I was genuinely elated.
The male characters are for the most part total dickheads and not worth mentioning but I liked Queenie’s female crew and their very different attitudes.
The book at first glance could be passed off as kind of ‘fluffy’ but it covers a lot of topics that aren’t trivial at all. I won’t spoiler these parts but I respect it’s unflinching attention to potentially triggering subject matter.
I recommend and also wouldn’t be against meeting Queenie again… film or TV adaptation, pretty please?