Review: Queenie

Read. This. Book.

I read Queenie 2 months ago and I am still talking about it. Prior to reading, I’d heard about the novel, seen it pop up on a range of platforms. I met Tobi Oredein, co-founder of Black Ballad who wrote about the text in her weekly editor’s newsletter and who gave me reasons to check the novel out. I read the blurb and this extract gave me all the information I needed to pre-order.

“Sometimes I feel frantic. And I feel like everything has just spun out of control, out of my hands? I don’t know. I feel a bit like for a while I’ve been carrying ten balls of wool. And one ball fell, so I dropped another to catch it, but still didn’t catch it. Then two more started to unravel, and in trying to save those I lost another one. Do you know what I mean?”

In urging people to read this novel, I bought copies and pitched it as a written version of Insecure. It has also been described online as the ‘Black Bridget Jones’, both of which are wrong. Candice deserves accolades in her own right for the portrayal of Queenie’s experience as is. It is refreshing, cringe-worthy, and simple; that’s one of my favourite descriptors.

Queenie touches on a lot, ranging from hook-up culture and dating, to family, culture, friendship and everything in between. Where it soars — so beautifully that it brought tears to my eyes — is its discussion on mental health and loss, particularly following a miscarriage. Queenie is of Jamaican heritage living in South London, we see her battling the housing market and the increasing effects of gentrification on her neighbourhood. We see her navigating white spaces in her professional and personal life and ultimately we see her breakdown. I cannot recall a novel with a black narrator that has portrayed and broken down mental health in such a way before. In reading Queenie, in seeing Queenie, I saw an experience that many can relate to and ultimately I felt scared. I felt scared seeing her struggle and the steps she had to take to get better. Confrontations with and from family and friends made this even more frightening considering the stigma surrounding mental health in the black community. But I saw Queenie rebuild herself and I cannot begin to explain how epic it was to see her begin to win.

Candice Carty-Williams highlighted a lot of [my] fears. A fear of exposure, vulnerability and honesty, immense losses that seem impossible to bounce back from. She took them all and she did what she had to do with honesty and with humour.

I haven’t discussed the writing. Queenie is easy to get into and it’s because of this I wasn’t ready for the extent to which Carty-Williams delves into the subject-matter. I was so engaged and invested in the story, it hit me differently when it did the things it did and I love(d) it. I was worried I would cringe as I have done with numerous other texts which have seemed similar to this. The use of colloquialisms in novels usually puts me on edge because of how badly written they tend to be and while I cringed a few times, it was more from Queenie’s actions than the way in which the words were written. This is a text written by someone that understands the ways in which [this] language is used.

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Joint account for Corey T and Ada K. Our dumping ground for thoughts, reviews and occasional commentary.

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Corey and Ada

Corey and Ada

Joint account for Corey T and Ada K. Our dumping ground for thoughts, reviews and occasional commentary.

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