Queenie is a twenty-five-year-old Black woman living in south London, straddling Jamaican and British culture whilst slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white, middle-class peers, and beg to write about Black Lives Matter. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie finds herself seeking comfort in all the wrong places.
As Queenie veers from one regrettable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be? – the questions that every woman today must face in a world that keeps trying to provide the answers for them.
A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on life, love, race and family, Queenie will have you nodding in recognition, crying in solidarity and rooting for this unforgettable character every step of the way. A disarmingly honest, boldly political and truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and acceptance and found something very different in its place.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams is quite an extraordinary book, it deals with some powerful and painful themes, race, inequality, feminism and misogyny, yet it is also laced with a dark vein of humour through Queenie’s story.
I suppose you might say that the humour in a book like Queenie couldn’t be described as warm, but the more I think about the novel, the more I find myself disagreeing with some of my initial assumptions. The humour is dark as befitting a story of quite exceptional insight, because humour can come from the darkest of moments, it is not always laugh out loud, sometimes it is oddly healing and supportive and for me this is where the humour came from in Queenie. In this novel one moment your reading about her destructive sex life, wanting her to see herself as worthy of love and then the next your laughing as Queenie run’s upstairs because she can’t stop thinking about croissants. It comes in the most fortuitous of moments, bringing lightness to a story with some darker overtones; making this book as much about Queenie and what makes her special, as it is about the issues she is grappling with.
As a character Queenie is superb! Deeply troubled, damaged yes, but she has an inner strength and yet the men in her life feel absurd, manipulative and laughable and it feels fine to laugh at them, where as laughing at Queenie would feel wrong. Candice Carty-Williams creates the humour from those around her and her interactions with them. Hilarity ensues when even though Queenie lands up living with her grand parents at her lowest ebb, the humour in these moments is warm and from a place of love. You laugh at her grandfather switching off the broadband at night, her text messages with friends, never at her, always with her. Queenie is truly hilarious at points, even if that humour is laced with pathos. When it relates to Queenie is is sympathetic, kindly and full of compassion.
You will cry, there are moments when you wish you could just hug Queenie until she releases how special she is, but you will also laugh and that is what makes this novel so special.
But why not also consider purchasing it from your local Indie Bookshop all of whom are magical places and deserve our support at this time and into the future.
About the author
Candice Carty-Williams was born in 1989, the result of an affair between a Jamaican cab driver and a dyslexic Jamaican-Indian receptionist. She is a journalist, screenwriter, and author of the Sunday Times bestselling Queenie, a book described as ‘vital’, ‘disarmingly honest’ and ‘boldly political’. In 2016, Candice created and launched the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) Short Story Prize, the first inclusive initiative of its kind in book publishing. As a journalist she has written for the 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. She can be found on Twitter @CandiceC_W