I’ve seen Queenie pop up in some Spring 2019 best-reads lists recently–like this one here on Pop Sugar. I also was intrigued by the cover so decided to give it a try. I think one of the reasons people are taking note of this book is that the heroine, Queenie is so refreshingly different from so many women featured in books.
I also recently read My Sister, The Serial Killer, and both feature strong young women of African descent. But both were written in a very relatable way and the author transports us seamlessly to the world of the story. These women are dealing with life as young single woman–building your career, finding love. But they are also dealing with lingering racial divides and all the obstacles that come with that.
Candice Carty-Williams grew up in South London and couldn’t dream of setting her first novel anywhere else. Her character, Queenie, grew up in Brixton, an area that was once dominated by Jamaican immigrants, but through rising prices and gentrification, has changed a lot over the past 20 years. I came across a series on i-D where young writers reflect on how London has changed. I found Carty-Williams’ essay interesting.
Queenie has been called, “Bridget Jones meets Americanah”. Is it accurate? Maybe…read on!
From the Publisher:
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.
Queenie was billed as “Bridget Jones Meets Americanah“.
Did it live up to the description?
When we meet Queenie at the beginning of the novel, she’s going through a hard time. She is going on a “break” with her boyfriend Tom and while we don’t know about the specifics of their issues then, as they unfold over time, we start to understand that they aren’t necessarily things that are easily fixable through time apart.
Then things go from bad to worse for Queenie. And at the age of 25, it’s almost as if she has truly hit rock bottom. She is making terrible decisions, having scary sexual encounters and just plain needs help.
I think the comparison to Bridget Jones comes from the way that Queenie just is kind of a mess in every way. Although I would argue that for the most part, Bridget Jones does it with some degree of humor. And Queenie was kind of a tougher read.
She definitely is messing up a lot of things and the more she tries to fix them, the worse her life gets, but there are stark differences. Bridget also has some scandalous encounters with men, but Queenie’s relationship with her own body and how she allows men to treat her is just downright dysfunctional.
Which brings me to Americanah. Which I have never read. But it seems like I probably should. But from what I have gathered, it focuses on a young Nigerian who heads to America and has to face head-on what it means to be black for the first time. Knowing this and seeing all that Queenie has to work out from her childhood as the grand-daughter of Jamaican immigrants and a mother who for all intensive purposes abandons her right before the teen years where a girl really needs her mom.
So I would agree that Bridget Jones and Americanah are probably the least likely of books to appear in the same sentence, but together I can see how they really relate to Queenie. Queenie is a tough read, about a girl who is grappling with her identity a woman, her identity as a black woman, and her status as a young person trying to be successful in the world.
While definitely not a light read, Queenie is still lighter than a book on this topic could be. And I believe the book has a lot of value to open reader’s eyes about racial divides and mental health.
Special thanks to Gallery/Scout Press and Netgalley for an e-galley in exhange for my honest review. This one releases on March 19, 2019. Get your copy!