Queenie Hardcover – March 19, 2019
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"Candice Carty-Williams delivers a hilarious roller coaster of a story." –US Weekly
"[A] brazenly hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is first novel." –O, The Oprah Magazine
"Vibrant, confused and honest, Queenie is a relatable heroine for modern times." –USA Today
"You'll likely feel seen while reading this (yes, it's that relatable), an example of what happens when you go looking for love and find something else instead." –PopSugar
"Candice Carty-Williams, a young Londoner, has a flair for story-telling that appears effortlessly authentic. Her title character is a woman you both know and cannot forget... Carty-Williams has taken a black woman’s story and made it a story of the age." –TIME Magazine
“The vibrant Queenie is a modern-day Bridget Jones's Diary, and so much more... [Carty-Williams’] debut reads a lot like its smart, sensitive protagonist: full of flaws and contradictions, and urgently, refreshingly real.” –Entertainment Weekly
"[A] hilarious, heart-shattering, deeply lovable novel... Debut author Candice Carty-Williams has created a truly one-of-a-kind heroine in Queenie, whose story is universally relatable without ever flinching in the face of challenging subjects that are more important now than ever. All hail Queenie." –Newsday
"You’ll read Queenie, a novel about a young Jamaican British woman trying to find her place in London, in one day. It’s that good." –Hello Giggles
"Meet Queenie Jenkins, a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman who works for a London newspaper, is struggling to fit in, is dealing with a breakup, and is making all kinds of questionable decisions. In other words, she's highly relatable. A must read for '19." –Woman's Day
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I loved her, despite her flaws, and I loved that her friends did, too. Queenie comes out on the other end with new realizations and better equipped to cope than when she went in. And in 2019, that feels like the best any of us can do.
The thing that first grabbed my attention with this book was, honestly, the cover. It is stunning! It’s definitely something that would catch your eye on the bookstore shelf. Then I read the excerpt that was provided on the Bookish First website. I was blown away! You would think that, given the narrator of the novel, that this would be a book geared toward a very narrow and audience. But you would be wrong. This book is so incredibly relatable. The main character faces a slew of issues that I think every millennial has dealt with. In the first chapter of the book, the protagonist, Queenie, goes to the gynecologist for an issue with her IUD. It turns out that she was pregnant and has had a miscarriage. This was what really drew me into Queenie’s world and made her relatable to me. I gave birth to my own IUD baby about four months ago. Despite our major differences, this was something Queenie and I had in common.
Bad relationships, getting over heartbreak, casual sex, struggles at work and finding a career, crappy housing with incredibly high rents, Queenie faces all of this and more in the first half of the book. The second half of the book delves into even more issues, like social injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement, and mental health issues like the anxiety that Queenie herself faces. Every single millennial that I know has dealt with at least one of these issues, many of them have dealt with them all. Regardless of background or race, this is a book that every millennial should read.
One of the things that I’ve read online is that they some readers take issue with Queenie’s casual, often abusive relationships and her long-term relationship with a white man. They say that she is constantly being taken advantage of by white men. I completely disagree with this for two reasons. The first reason Is that a number of her sexual partners are not white. Her first casual encounter is with a Pakistani man, not a white man. I also feel that her anxiety and insecurity that she deals with in the second half of the novel really contribute to her choosing poor partners. Second, without giving too much away, from what we learn about Queenie’s mother and her own relationships, it comes as no surprise that Queenie lets men take advantage of her.
The bigger issue, I find, is that this book is compared to novels like Bridget Jones's Diary. This not at all the light-hearted, chick-flick novel that Bridget Jones is. Queenie deals with much more serious issues and is often much more hard to handle. It is, in many ways, better. But it definitely not the book to read if you’re looking for a light read.
Overall, it is an amazing book that I would recommend to any millennial, or anyone looking to read more about the problems our generation is facing.
Although I wanted Queenie, the main character, to punch several characters in the face at several different points in time, this book was like reading about someone I knew. You want her to stand up for herself. You want her to put people in their place. You want her to value herself more! You want her to live the life she [read: you, young, Black Millennial person] deserves.
As corny and cliche as this sounds, this was the first time I've ever read a book and felt SEEN, specifically as an educated, Caribbean young woman with conservative grandparents and religious family, one who grew up up in a Western white world full of both active and passive racial micro-aggressions/outright aggressions. I felt like I was a blend of all the characters and I think that was the point, beautifully made. Buy this book for yourself, for your grandchildren, for your daughter...but whatever you do, buy it. It's a book I truly hold dear.
Once I started reading a book, I feel a sense of commitment to read it in its entirety, and so I did finish reading Queenie. I'm glad that over a period of ? what? a year (I believe), Queen showed a measurable recovery from having totally bottomed out (a bit unrealistic, don't you think). Even this would have been okay, except for the last scene---the celebration at the diner where Cassandra 'mysteriously' shows up and has a sweeping personality change, such that she acknowledges her error in marrying/hooking up w/Guy.
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I also found the writing style a little juvenile, with slang thrown into the narrative (such as the use of 'irl' in the bulk of the narrative) and ensured that I never warmed to Queenie. She seemed an incredibly shallow and reactionary sort of person and this wasn't helped by the simplistic writing style. Which brings me onto one of my main problems with this book: Queenie is not at all likeable as a character. In the narrative we learn that she thinks she's funny (funnier than most people) and we learn that she thinks of herself as loyal, yet these are not qualities she ever exhibits. She is brash, reactionary and quite racist to be honest (at one point she wonders whether her slobbish white housemate leaving used sanitary pads on the ground next to the bin in the bathroom is a cultural thing). In fact, in a book that is trying to tackle the everyday racism faced by black people living in London, there are an awful lot of racist references towards white people (every white man she meets is an awful human being who uses her and within the narrative, it is heavily implied that white men are all like that and merely want to use black women) as well as being quite antisemitic with the way the only Jewish character is characterised. I've spent 12 years living in Brixton, knew all of the places she described/referenced and am well aware of the complex issues the area is facing - at times, it was quite an uncomfortable read in this regard, the way that every white person in Brixton was described in a negative light and as some sort of invasive species. If this had been more intelligently woven into the plot it would have made for a more interesting discussion about gentrification; as it stood, it seemed like the author's own voice was making a mark in a way that didn't necessarily develop Queenie's arc or plot (as it might have done if the story had focused more on Queenie becoming involved in the Black Lives Matter movement for instance).
Getting back to Queenie as a character though, at no point does she do anything that truly makes you warm to her - her free time is spent vegging and watching TV in isolation, in her own words she isn't creative or into any sport (and appears to have no interests whatsoever that might have developed her as a person, well, except sex of course), she isn't a good friend, has an extreme sense of entitlement when it comes to her job (we very rarely read of her actually doing any work as she spends a lot of time bunking off or wandering about chatting to her friend, and yet even when she's given a formal warning, she doesn't change her behaviour) and the list goes on. She has come from an incredibly traumatic background, which understandably has left her with a lot of "stuff" (in her own words), but I do wish she could have had at least one or two qualities that could explain why she had such loyal friends. As it stood, she was simply unlikeable and I didn't feel invested in her at all as she continued to sabotage her own life, nor did I feel much in the book's closing pages where the author was trying to shoehorn in a sense of closure with Queenie's celebratory meal with her friends and family. The reintroduction of Cassandra (the walking plot device who Queenie doesn't even know why she is friends with) at the end was clumsy and unnecessary. It felt quite juvenile to need to tie up all the loose ends and her reintroduction was comically forced and convenient.
All in all, I was glad it was a quick read as I found myself flagging barely a few chapters in.
Finally having a chance to read this book on holiday, I found myself rationing how many pages a day I allowed myself to read because I was drawn into the story immediately and really didn't want it to end. Though Queenie herself is flawed, I found that's a big part of what made the story beautiful and so relatable; I saw parts of myself in Queenie, recognised friends, family and colleagues who all came together to make this book so real. Even down to the ways and habits of her Jamaican grandparents, which I'm sure many of us have experienced and grown up with! I can't express how wonderful it was reading about places in London that I know and have grown up in and described through the eyes of Queenie, whose feelings and opinions on things like gentrification and Black Lives Matter also really hit home for me.
I've recommended this book to family, friends and co-workers and felt I had to do a review too. I can't wait to see more work from Candace C Williams!
Much less depressing than my summary makes it sound, this was a unique and interesting read. Queenie is a witty protagonist, and the reasons for her issues unravel slowly. The fiction is mixed well with real-life issues (the #metoo movement, and Black Lives Matter), without beating the reader over the head with them. An entertaining and also thought-provoking book, recommended.
It is a huge sign of current empathy hierarchy that no reviews I read of this book mentioned its antisemitism.
I know and love a lot of Queenies (and Kyazikes) and saw myself and my family in Queenie’s grandmother making her fish fingers, baked beans and fried plantain, her granddad and the water rates (!), wanting to find a Black-owned establishment in the market, those real-life Get Out moments, feeling insecure and unsure. I love Candice Carty-Williams for writing a novel about a Black British woman just being a Black British woman and finding her babygirlness. We needed this.
The book overall is well written. The sections about the characters family are written lovingly, and are both funny and heartwarming. However the character of Queenie herself is so utterly dislikable, I found that I really didn't care what happened to her by the end. Alright, yes, she does have mental health issues which can explain away some of her more mopey, self-obsessive tendencies, but the author fails to add any redeeming features to her utterly flawed personality.
Also on that note, I feel that Carty-Williams flounders somewhat in what this book is actually meant to 'be', for want of a better phrase. Is it fluffy, fun chic lit, or is it an exploration of deeper issues, such as the black lives matter movement? I don't believe that the right balance has been struck at all, with the heavier issues just touched upon to give Queenie some depth of personality or relatability.
Overall, the book only took me a couple of days to read, so I don't feel like I wasted much time on it. I will not be looking out for more from this author in the future though.