Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie is the sort of book you simply can’t put down, and it encompasses themes that affect all of us. A novel about life, love and our relationships with others, Queenie has something for everyone. The titular protagonist herself also makes the book magnificent. Carty-Williams has created a character far from perfect, and Queenie often makes mistakes both in her professional and personal life. She has issues that stem from her uneasy childhood that affect her daily and result in her pushing her loved ones away. What I love about this book is that Queenie feels truly real. I have read many books where characters have issues from their pasts that feel painfully cliché and forced upon them when the narrative needs it. However, Carty-Williams writes Queenie with these issues subtly embedded in her character from the start and, as we get to know Queenie, we begin to gain an awareness and understanding of these traits alongside her own discovery of them. These issues enable a wonderful discussion of mental health. There’s no melodrama, no major dramatic blows, Queenie slowly develops mental health issues and we witness this page by page as her character changes while her mental state deteriorates. Carty-Williams handles these issues with great care whilst also showing how our mental health can affect not only us, but those around us also.
On an even deeper level, Queenie is a book that gives a candid depiction of modern life as a Black woman in the UK and the racism they face on a daily basis. Through multiple different avenues, Queenie experiences prejudice simply due to the colour of her skin, many of which I (a white reader) was completely unaware of. The book does not sugarcoat these experiences; as we read through Queenie’s perspective, we are granted a brutally honest presentation of the world through the eyes of a Black woman. What makes Queenie such a wonderful character is that she rarely lets prejudices go unspoken. She speaks out, informs and questions comments that stem from racist bias and never allows them to go amiss.Queenie is an important character in modern literature as a professional Black woman who has power over her own sexual agency and stands up for what is right. However, it is Queenie’s lack of perfection that makes her so crucial. She is often the reason for her lack of success in life, and for the most part she is her own villain. She mirrors what it is to be human. Of course, other people do come along and cause us grief and hardship, but it is often ourselves that are our own worst enemies. Queenie is a spectacular book, championing Black women whilst also offering us an imperfect, unpolished character we can all relate to.