I read Queenie for my book group and by the time this post goes live, I will know what everyone else thought about the book. I hope they loved it as much as I have. This is a book which has been deservedly nominated for many book awards and most recently won Book of the Year at The British Book Awards, with Candice Carty-Williams the first black author to win this award since it began in 1994.
You probably have heard lots about this book so I’m not going to say much about the plot except that it’s about Queenie, who is a young black woman living in London and working for a magazine. Following a relationship break-up, her life goes into a downwards spiral and we follow her through this and as she begins to recover with the help of family, friends and a wonderful therapist.
What I do want to talk about is Queenie herself and the emotions she evoked in me. She had very low self-esteem, the reasons for which become clear though the course of the book. Because of this, she made some really poor decisions, sometimes repeatedly, and this both made me despair and exasperated me. The way she was treated by many characters also infuriated me and made me feel so protective of this damaged and traumatised woman. The casual and not so casual racism Queenie experienced on an everyday basis both opened my eyes and yes, infuriated me again.
You may think I have read this book in a permanent state of rage but that’s not the case at all. The book was also full of humour with Queenie, her Jamaican family and her friends all making me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. Thank goodness she had these people around her to support her at her darkest moments, even when she sometimes seemed to be pushing everyone away.
It’s fair to say that I loved Queenie, both the book and the character. Candice Carty-Williams has created a character I won’t forget and gave me plenty to think about when it comes to race and mental health. This is a book well deserving of its many accolades and I do urge you to read it if you haven’t already. And if you do, let me know what you think of Queenie.
Queenie is published by Trapeze books and is available in all formats. I bought my copy from my local independent bookshop The Portobello Bookshop and would encourage you to buy from a indie bookshop if you are able. Otherwise, you will find buying options for various retailers on the Orion website here: Queenie
From the back of the book
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?
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.
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 and Instagram at @CandiceC_W.