I could not wait to get my hands on a copy of Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams mainly because the main character is a Jamaican. I was also drawn to this book because it is being dubbed as “Bridget Jones meets Americanah” and while I see why that is the case, in some (most) instances I don’t- we will get to that soon.
We meet Queenie Jenkins a 25-year-old living in London who is from Jamaica. Queenie’s had a lot going for her, especially for a millennial living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. She works at national newspaper, a job she actually likes, she lives with her long-time white boyfriend and still manages to have a solid group of friends around her. Things begin to fall apart and fast, for Queenie when Tom, her long-term boyfriend tells her they need to go on a break… a long one. We see our main character begin to spiral in more ways than one, she messes up constantly at work, her personal relationships are falling apart and her toxic behaviour starts taking a mental toll on herself and those around her.
I have a lot of things I want to say, so I will break them up into two parts- what worked and what didn’t work for me.
- The whatsapp group chat with the friends I found worked really well in how it moved the plot along and got us to know more about Queenie and her friends. I think this was my favorite part of the book if I am being honest. I love how real those chat felt, how hilarious they were at times and as a millennial, that part of the book really resonated with me.
- The writing worked in some parts and it did not in others. The parts that it worked, it really worked. Reading the book was like listening to your close friend tell her story. It was refreshing, down to earth and unpretentious. I felt the Author did a great job of showing us Queenie, flaws and all.
- I particularly loved two themes that the author discussed one being mental health and how it is viewed in a Caribbean and Black community setting. I felt it was addressed in a very real way. Being from the Caribbean, we can still be very archaic in how we address mental health and those who decide to go to therapy for help are sometimes shunned or seen as bringing embarrassment to the family. The author did an amazing job of addressing this issue. I also liked that the author explored how black women’s bodies are often fetishized. This is a topic I don’t read a lot about and how we were able to experience that through Queenie felt very real and often times infuriating.
- I do like the own voice, that Queenie speaks specifically to that young black woman living in a city and trying to pull her life together even with all the bad that is happening around them.
- Queenie’s group of friends was also a big appeal for me. I wish they got more air time.
Overall it was a really easy book to read, I felt myself racing through the book because it does hold your interest and pulls you in.
What Didn’t Work
- While I liked that the author tried explored racial tensions and discrimination, I felt like it wasn’t deep enough. Maybe I am nit-picking because how deep can one go when the main character’s life is falling apart and she is engaging in self-destructive behaviour. However, the race theme felt very “by the way” because this is current and it would be good to add to the discussion. This also applies to Queenie’s heritage, I hoped to read more about how her Jamaican heritage impacted her overall. Aside from her Grandparents and Aunty that were Jamaican it wasn’t addressed much.
- The flashbacks at the first part of the book were particularly jarring. I kept wondering “wait, how are we here, I thought they weren’t together?” but then I figured out it was flashbacks. That part of the book could have been a bit clear, however once you get the hang of it, you will be fine. Also those flashbacks helped to paint a full picture of Queenie and why she is currently in this predicament.
- I feel the comparison to Bridget Jones Diary is a long stretch. The only thing Queenie and Bridget have in common is that they live in London and are bad at love. The writing at times did lend to a Bridget Jones-esq feel but that’s where the comparison ends. Queenie is a way more complex character and while the book started out very shallow, things got deeper in the end.
Overall this book will be open to a lot of reader interpretation. I do see a lot of people either loving it or being underwhelmed- it is too hard to not like a character like Queenie. I am here for Williams’ next book because I did enjoy reading this book. Queenie will be available for purchase in March 2019.