Review: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

book of the year alert!!

Queenie was voted as British Book Of The Year beating acclaimed writers like Margaret Attwood and Lisa Taddeo. Although Candice Carty-Williams was “proud” of the moment, she was “sad” to hear that she was the only black and female author to have ever won it. We agree that it was a total disgrace no-one had recognised this but we are also pleased to see that it is potentially a new era to the publishing industry. There are many events in this book that triggers countless themes which we may see crop up more among the book chats. For us, we were moved by the journey Queenie had taken through the book where she learned what is took for her to be kind to herself but also what she expects out of a relationship with other people whether or not that is with a friend or a partner. The book also focuses on Black Live Matter, domestic abuse, struggles in the workplace, Racism and Womanhood. In terms of our ‘Strong Women’ theme for September, we want discuss this book in regards to ‘finding one’s self’ and the journey Queenie had to take.

“You’re going to have to work hard to carve out your own identity, but you can do it”

Diana, Queenie

The book is based on a twenty five year old Jamacian girl called Queenie. She has been described as a “black Bridget Jones” which initially wasn’t the case with the character because of the background but then Carty-Williams slowly started to admit this in interviews. Queenie works at the local newspaper as a Journalist with her friend, Darcy. She suffers a hardship with a work colleague towards the end of the book and shows us she still has that determination for a career. However, Darcy helps her get through this as you will see towards the end of the book. Her friends are her everything. There is Darcy, Cassandra and Kenziyka. They are known as the ‘Corgis’ and Queenie is their queen. This was a really cute touch of Carty-Williams. We really enjoyed their relationship over messages and their banter (mostly from Kenziyka). Throughout the book, we watch Queenie suffer from a few of the topics above and how she gets through those struggles.

This book mirrors Eleanor Oliphant but with a modern twist regarding  mental health. Queenie has her family surrounding her towards the end suggesting that our healthcare system DOES support those who are willing to let them help but they can recognise these points before. For this, we praised Queenie for her courage to #bekind to herself. There were many lows in the book which we found quite draining to read as Carty-Williams was so damn good at bringing that tone down then back up. When Queenie sub-consciously told herself she needed to get a grip on her life, you could feel a sense of longing for everything to be less cloudy in her mind. When things turned sour with Cassandra, it was like the tipping point for her. This is when we saw how much Queenie valued friendship. We knew this from the beginning with the messages but then you really started to second guess how they felt about her when it got sour as mentioned. This was proven wrong through the act of compassion from the Corgis which made us stay on side with the friends. When reading it, you really thought “how on earth can she get out of this mess?” so we were constantly lured into finding out how the book was going to be wrapped up.

Our favourite characters have to be Diana for being light-hearted but real when talking about Black Lives Matter. Kyazike was the other. One, she taught us so many new phrases. Two, she DID know her place as a friend (unlike Cassandra) but kept us laughing out loud. Did you like our Dua Lipa reference? Did you notice it in the book too? The best bit was with the married guy, the wife! Omg LOL!

Let’s talk about the Black Lives Matter theme in the book. We are so glad that this book actually won BBOTY awards. With the world being struck by lockdown which then surged into the BLM marches (mainly in Amercia), we were pleased to see that there was a book that represented the year so far. Yes, if a book about lockdown had won the award it would have signified 2020 in a nutshell but it would have been cliche to make that move. This book being Book of the Year represents the movement of the decade to come and shows movement: THE WORLD IS LISTENING! The stories made us want to cry when suffering through racial abuse and slurrs. Like people written in the book were talking to Queenie like it was rolling off of their tongue and you could see the anger build up in her. It was disgusting! The pure struggles our corgis had to go through. More importantly, why was it always them saying something back to them and no-one else seemed to correct the people in the wrong? We loved how the girls stood up for themselves and recognised each others cultural differences. It highlighted the lack of understanding other people had and the importance of the #blmmovement. This was supported when the girls felt the need to talk about the march. It was impressive how Carty-Williams drew us in with realism, relativity and justice which we didn’t think Kenziyka would be up for, either.

No one can live up to the standards set by racist stereotypes like this that position Black women as so strong they don’t need help, protection, care, or concern. Such stereotypes leave little to no room for real Black women with real problems. In fact, even the most “positive” tropes about women of color are harmful precisely because they dehumanize us and erase the damage that can be done to us by those who might mean well, but whose actions show that they don’t actually respect us or our right to self-determine what happens on our behalf.”

Mikki Kendall, Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot

When listening to Call Her Daddy podcast with Miley Cyrus, they spoke about knowing what you want in love & having a partner that can understand you or bring something to your level of personality. We felt like Queenie was looking for the idea of a perfect relationship but Tom didn’t understand her that well, right? He didn’t give her the drive to do better in Journalism or her OCD. There wasn’t enough drive in their relationship to challenge each other. Queenie couldn’t even tell him one major thing in their relationship so what did that represent as their relationship as a whole? We saw her realise, he did break her heart and he wasn’t everything she ever wanted. It’s okay to hurt but actually maybe it’s time to do it differently. Queenie gave us that acceptance and understanding in life as many of us have experienced!

Overall, there was much appreciation for Queenie. She learned to love herself, to accept challenges that come about and how to deal with them, her friends and family are everything in life, herself if the only person that matters, some day racism will go away and that a healthy relationship involves connecting with one another! Like we said, there are so many areas that Carty-Williams can go back to but we think it would ruin the authenticity of what points she is making. She is boldly political and outspoken as an author which is a rare find in popular fiction. She shows Queenie is (underneath) a strong feminine, black woman who can get everything she wants in life but will have to carve away in order to define her true identity. No-one should ever stop her…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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