I thought I’d missed the bus with Queenie, the book that took 2019 by storm, but I’m glad I finally jumped aboard. It met my expectations and was also so much more…

Author: Candice Carty-Williams

Where did I get this book: An audible listen, and then a kindle read because I needed to finish it for book club

Finished on: 20 July 2020

Right at the cutting edge of new literature as usual, I have now read Queenie, the book that took 2019 by storm. Billed as the black Bridget Jones – although, to be honest, I’m not sure who actually said that – I expected an easy-to-read, chatty style – tick; I expected adventures and misadventures in love – tick; and I expected a supporting greek chorus of friends to help us work through the action – tick.

What I definitely did not expect was to be slapped around the face with heartbreaking emotional wallops for over 300 pages. Queenie, the eponymous character, is 100% real from the very first page, when we meet her with her legs up in stirrups having gynaecological examination. So, every bad, broken decision she makes, every time someone treats her badly, it really hurts.

The intimate, colloquial, having a chat with a friend over a glass of wine style just makes our empathetic response more intense. Yes, I wanted to shake her sometimes, but it was because I loved her.

The book shines a light on much of the black female British experience I can’t imagine – although, perhaps I can imagine a little better now – but also so much of the universal female British experience I know only too well. It made me cry several times – and it wasn’t always with sadness. One section that made me lose it completely involves her grandmother bursting into the bathroom and insisting on scrubbing her back while also giving her a no-nonsense talking to. I still don’t quite know why – but *sob*

One of the things Carty-Williams conveys brilliantly is the huge contradictions that can exists in our relationships; how a person can be both completely wonderful and completely horrible, and sometimes even both at the same time. In this context, trying to decide if someone is good or bad, or a positive or negative influence in our life, becomes a pointless exercise. I don’t think I’ve seen this paradox written about this well before.

All in all, I was wondering if I’d missed the bus with Queenie. But, I’m so glad I jumped aboard and went along for the ride. It fulfilled all my expectations but was also so much more.


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