Candice Carty-Williams' Queenie took the book world by storm, and I'd have to agree that it is a true hurricane of a novel - in the best way. It is powerful and sweeps you off your feet in one quick swoop. Candice Carty-Williams writes in a witty, honest, and relatable way that makes you love her protagonist Queenie to death.
The novel is about 25-year-old Queenie, a Black woman figuring out her life in London. But after her long-term boyfriend Tom breaks up with her (In Ross Geller “we were on a break!” style), everything seems to fall apart. Queenie seeks anything to distract her from her sadness, ending up in all the wrong places. Through her trials and tribulations, we watch her build herself up with the help of her family, friends, and therapist, to be the true queen that she is.
I absolutely adored this novel. Queenie as a narrator is laugh-out-loud funny in a self-deprecating kind of way (think Fleabag) and ends up in hilarious situations.
"When Darcey first started inviting me to these parties I thought it was for a social experiment or hidden camera show, like 'put a black person in Made in Chelsea and see what happens'."
Queenie is all over the place in a raw, relatable way and her flaws and complexities make her such a fully-fleshed-out character. Queenie often gets herself into situations where you want to shake her out of it, yet other times you want to hug and cry with her. She is complex and not always likeable, often doing the opposite of what you would do, but showing this side shows a complex woman who you love despite her human faults. She is feisty, strong, vulnerable, and scared at the same time.
The mental health theme is one area that makes the novel stand out so much. Queenie's moments with her therapist almost feels like free therapy to read, adding in wonderful advice for all.
"The road to recovery is not linear. It's not straight. It's a bumpy path, with its of twists and turns. But you're on the right track."
Queenie is a reminder that it is okay not to have things figured out and what we should really be thankful for, rather than holding onto people or situations that bring us no good. Queenie is a character who you root for, and she is rooting for you back. She upholsters the worth of others, the reader, and herself by the end.
"I looked at my three friends, the lights exploding in the sky and illuminating their beautiful faces. They all represented different parts of my life, had all come to me at different times; why they'd stuck with me I was constantly trying to work out"
This novel tackles some huge themes – racism, misogyny, sexual abuse and mental health – in a way that feels incredibly important and totally true to life. This novel brings these themes at a crossroads, showing their intersectionality by putting a black woman at the centre of the story. We see Queenie’s every day occurrences with racism and sexism, such as the fetishisation of her body by white men. Queenie is not only a complex character, but faces the consequences of the complex systems around her and shows the reader what it's like to be in her shoes.
"It was full of women of varying shapes and sizes but, as with work, parties, university, anywhere, saw nobody like me. Nobody black."
I found the book to be fast-paced and easy to read, breezing through it in a day.
Carty-Williams has this wonderful ability to slip into memories of the past, comfortably showing what Queenie is thinking about rather than explaining it. She places it all on the page and lets it unfold for the reader, allowing you to see the path that led her to where she is. I loved this aspect of the writing.
Overall, this is an incredible book that shows a funny, loveable, complex Black British woman. I urge you to read this, you’ll find a friend in its pages.
Some of my favourite quotes:
"Can you believe they interview people for an internship? All I'll be getting is lunch money and they asked me to give five examples of culture websites and what makes them so successful."
"Black Lives Matter does not diminish any lives other than ours. That's not what its about. What we're saying right now is that we are the ones who are suffering."
"Look at all of those people, who love you. You are worthy of love, and they prove that. They'll always be there for you like they have been when you needed it most."
See you next time,