Rating: 4.5 Stars
Publication Date: 19th March, 2019
Genre: Novel, Psychological Fiction, Urban fiction, Biographical Fiction
Queenie is one of the most relatable novels I have ever read; and that’s not just because Queenie (the protagonist) is a 25-year-old, Jamaican British black woman trying to navigate life in London without looking and feeling like a complete failure; as most of us are (minus the youthful 25 years of age, the Jamaican British-ness, and the living in London).
The novel starts off on a witty tone that I cackled at: Queenie is in the hospital for a gynae appointment with her aunt Maggie, who happens to be going off about what a horrible idea it is for a woman to knowingly deal with a Gemini man, especially one born in June. I’ll admit that I was struck by a cold sweat when I heard this because, as some of you will know, I happen to be married to one said Gemini man, born in June (And I’ll have you know, he is the best decision I’ve made in adulthood). We’re also brought into the fact that Queenie and her boyfriend Tom are on a break (Later on in the book, we learn that this is for several reasons: Queenie’s inability to be vulnerable and open up about issues – and Tom’s inability to defend Queenie from his racist Uncle being at the forefront) and that she isn’t dealing with this well. Her coping mechanisms are not healthy; she constantly makes horrible decisions that she knew were horrible decisions (and I cringed at every single time)– and as a result of this, her life completely unravels.
The novel is a roller-coaster of emotions from confusion, to anger, to disappointment in the decisions she made through the novel and at one point, I was bawling my eyes out (silently, in bed while the Gemini man, born in June peacefully slept). It was so emotional because I fully understood what Queenie was going through – because I found so many similarities between she and I (which suggests that there is a lot to work through, but we already know this). Queenie genuinely is just a plus-sized girl, trying to do well at her job, find and use her voice against the social injustices that black people face; and more than anything else – be loved. And isn’t that all we’re trying to do?
I bawled my eyes out when I read one line in the novel – I’ll let you find the context yourselves because you absolutely have to read it; but she’s asked what she thinks of herself when she looks in the mirror. Her response is “I try not to look in the mirror.” And for me, that was one of the most heartbreaking moments in the whole novel because I know that girl, and have been that girl for as long as I have been alive. This is not about me, however.
Candice Carty-Williams is a phenomenal storyteller, who has the right amount of wit and British humour that seasons the serious theme of the novel. And I’m so pleased to have come across it (all thanks to Angie – who you can learn more about here) and had the chance to delve into something so great.