Cover Image: Queenie

Queenie

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Published 3/19/2019 Orion Publishing ; winner of the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction. 4 stars
 
I don't read book reviews before I read a book because I myself am a mood reader. This book is not one to be read in one sitting it is meant to be read, get angry at the main character , then sit back and wonder why we are angry. Queenie is a character that is flawed, with progress that happens slowly. Her friends , thankfully all stay with her even as she self isolates.  I love the author's Good Read notes she left , and with her quotes I  am going to unpack my thoughts.

Queenie grew up being raised by a strong grandmother who had a hard life, and with their generational trauma came the tradition of ignoring mental health issues because of the stigmas associated with them. Her Grandmother didn't accept her depression, she thought all will be cured with good food and cleaning away the grief. 
"It's constant, with you . It's too much." Tom said, his voice cracking. " You're too much, Queenie"
Queenie was misunderstood by her boyfriend Tom . They didn't communicate with each other, she tried to tell him how the microaggressions of his family hurt, and he sat back doing nothing to speak up for her either. Her friends see her as "wild" but don't see her as hurt emotionally. Queenie also is stalked at work; sexual harassments contributed to her emotional state.  Instead of being able to tell her boss any of this she tries to side step, and make herself smaller which leads her to more humilliation and hurt.
Without spoilers, there is much that Queenie unpacked in this book. It was healing as a black woman, healing as a child who was abused, it was healing as an adult who was sexually abused and harassed. When all of this was unpacked, looked at bit by bit, Queenie could then be the woman she was meant to be.  
My full review was on my blog 
https://wordpress.com/post/rosegalleyreview.wordpress.com/58
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This very adult novel came with a lot of issues to unpack. Queenie's troubled youth fractured her confidence about how Black men saw her, and as a result she now seeks out relationships with men of other races. The problem is, none of the men she finds treat her as a woman to be loved, but as an aide to meet their own physical needs. Rather than standing up for herself, Queenie goes along with their demands--no matter how abusive--and things spiral out of her control until she is unsure if she can get back on track. Or if she even wants to. 
Carty-Williams' writings about Queenie's life as a young Black woman in London are sharp and eye-opening, not to mention somehow funny despite the destructive tone.
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A new "classic" when it comes to books rich in representation of not just white, female characters.  This story is realistic and hard-hitting, and along with its well written and respectable characters, this book really packs a punch.  You will love it.
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I wanted so much to like this book, but I just found the main character to be very one dimensional.  It was hard to read about her relationships, because the reader doesn't have enough of an understanding of the character to explain why these relationships are the way they are.  And as a result, I found myself just being annoyed.  I hung on - so there had to be something redeeming about the book.  But I kept waiting for there to be an explanation of why this character would behave the way she did and it just never seemed to come.  I saw that there was a lot of great buzz about the book, so I wondered if there was a younger audience that felt more connected.
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Queenie is a young Jamaican woman who is trying to figure out life. Queenie and her boyfriend Tom, whom she lives with, have decided to "take a break," and this sends her into a tailspin. Queenie slowly begins to self-destruct--she hooks up with any guy just to "boost" her self-esteem even though these men only use her, a friendship is ruined because of one of these guys, and she is put on a leave-of-absence from her job as a journalist because of a guy's false accusations.
Queenie's self-destructive behavior frustrated me, but it was never excused or glorified and in the end there is explanation and even hope for Queenie.
Queenie has a message for the world, and as a young, black journalist, I hope her voice can be heard on issues such as Black Lives Matter, body image, self-love, mental health, and sexual assault/harassment.
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I... this is not one I enjoyed reading. I know the purpose was probably to showcase how Queenie goes through different challenges in her life but I just could not relate to her or anything that was happening. As a black woman myself I feel like I should be able to relate to characters that look like me. And sure Queenie and I live totally different lives, I’m in the US and she is not, but I think there’s still SOMETHING that should have connected us. Reading her go all gaga over a white man that treated her like crap was frustrating and kind of uncomfortable to read about. Black women are already so underrepresented in media as is, and whenever we are it’s usually done in very stereotypical ways. We can never just be happy go lucky, free women like our white or even POC counterparts, and it’s extremely harmful. Sure, not all representation is done this way, but these stories always seem to be the only ones to become popular. I wish for once; that stories of us happy and not beaten down by life could get the same kind of attention as these struggle stories. I really wish this could’ve been a better reading experience for me, but unfortunately it wasn’t.
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Exceptional. I wasn't really connecting with this at the beginning, and it took me a while. I'm glad I didn't give up on this one. What a treat. One, if you can, listen to the audiobook. Shvorne Marks, the narrator, does a superb job bringing these rich characters to life. 

The character development and the relationships between the characters are really something. Queenie will definitely be one of my favorite books of 2020, and I will absolutely reread this. There was quite a bit of stuff dealing with mental health that I could identify with, and it really is something to see someone with kind of a similar situation written on the page and for words to be written so well that explain the things that you've always felt but can't quite make words work to explain it. 

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for a copy of this ARC.
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I wanted to love Queenie, unfortunately it was just okay for me. I think I went in with too high expectations. I did love all the cultural aspects and Queenie’s characters, but the plot fell flat for me. (Literary fiction is not a genre I read a lot, this may very well be a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation!)
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Queenie, the eponymous character of Candice Carty-Williams's debut novel, stayed in my mind long after I finished her story. She felt so real to me, complex and troubled, trying to find her way in a world that cares little for young women of color. At work and in her relationships, she has to be nearly perfect, for her mistakes have more severe consequences than they do for men or for her boss. And Queenie makes mistakes, sometimes quite stupid ones, as she would be the first to admit - as do we all. If you like your heroes uncompromised and insightful, always doing the smart thing and knowing how to defeat the bad guy or save the world, or whatever they're supposed to do, then this probably isn't a book you'll enjoy. If you want to read about someone who is trying to figure out what exactly she is supposed to do, responding to unfairness not with an action hero's valor and resolve, but with an all-too-human muddling and self-sabotage, then step into Queenie's world. Carty-Williams shows a London that offers the promise of fun and romance to young women like Queenie and her friends, only to snatch away the prize and give them high rents, violent and selfish men, and demeaning, low-paid work. Queenie's Jamaican-British family are loving and ready to support her in a crisis, but also judging and demanding, with little patience for her choices and desires. Her estranged mother desperately wants to be the parent Queenie needs, but the pain of their shared past keeps them apart. Queenie must figure out how to rebuild her broken world with the support of family, her two good friends, and (after many bureaucratic headaches) a therapist from the National Health Service. Her story is moving and heart-breaking and ultimately liberating, as she inspires readers to find our own path to redemption and love.
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I can confirm that the Bridget Jones comparison is kind of inaccurate; Queenie is a far different character, and her story heads in a completely different, and far darker, direction. This is Queenie's story of dealing with her unresolved trauma, as she spirals further and further into a whirlpool of self-destructive behavior mainly revolving around sleeping with white men who hurt and belittle her.

Queenie is a fantastic, realistically flawed character. She's not always sympathetic, and often will do or say things that had me cringing or just wanting to shake some sense into her, but her actions are always understandable, particularly when you see the sorts of microaggressions she encounters in her daily life as a black woman. In particular, her longterm ex-boyfriend Tom's family could be particularly unpleasant, and Tom would never defend her, would in fact berate her for taking things too seriously, a kind of gaslighting which surely took a heavy toll on Queenie's mental health.

Despite the darkness, this book is really funny, too; it shifts between tonality quite smoothly, and Queenie's humor is often dry and sometimes dark. I really enjoyed reading about her relationships with her girlfriends especially, who are all very different but very supportive of her. It was also kind of exhausting reading about Queenie's terrible encounters with men; honestly, the thesis of this book should just be "men are trash." I don't know how much the author is pulling from her actual experiences, but if any of these encounters that Queenie has with these men are based in reality...big yikes.

This is a book with a lot of heart; Queenie's Jamaican family features heavily, and Queenie overall feels like a very real person with a very real history and background. I very much enjoyed going on this tumultuous journey with her!
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I just love this book.!! so good to have black women writer and subject of a book. It was smart and funny. I was so sad when the book ened
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Looooooved it. It starts off reading like a Bridget Jones Book, but quickly switches over to a story much darker and more relatable. A must read for anyone who has been young
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Queenie is a bold, diverse, and believable character that I just love.  I have a few real life "Queenies" in my life.  She gives a little more bite to the basic chick lit type story, a bit more weight than the Bridget Jones to which she is compared.  I found myself laughing at so many points in the book.  This is a light, fun read!
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I wasn't as big a fan of this as I thought I would be. Though I understand what the author was driving at, there was still so much self-undermining and self-loathing in Queenie that it was over the top and hopeless. I do appreciate the female relationships in this book though, and I think many women around this age may identify with this story (myself not included).
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Such a great debut novel! It was fresh, bold, funny, complex, and everyone should read it! Bridget Jones's Diary for the modern world.
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I loved reading about Queenie's messy life. It's not often we get books that allow Black women to be flawed and vulnerable in ways that doesn't directly speak to the ways they're oppressed in society. It was a quick read, great to sit down with over a weekend. I hope you publish more books like this!
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Queenie follows in the tradition of Jane Austen and Bridget Jones Diary. Young singleton trying to find love. However, I think Austen would approve that one should not be forced into such things. One should treat oneself as a queen before they consider their subjects. This journey to empowerment runs through racist, sexist, and body-focused men and women. It takes a long while to overcome abuse, gaslighting, and finding your self-worth, especially when you need to fight to find your voice. 

Queenie and her boyfriend are on a break. She loses her place and must find a new one, meanwhile, her job is getting increasingly precarious in a world that's changing and gentrifying all around her. She has to settle for a terrible roommate and bad abusive relationships where men only seem to want to have sex with her body. They are so abusive the doctor thinks she has been raped. 

Since this book seems to be in the mold of Bridget Jones Diary, one would think that she would find her Mr. Darcy with her friends rooting for her, but it isn't that sort of book. She needs to find the solution on her own through introspection and therapy. Shen a series of incidents risk her friendships, her boyfriend, and her job she has to take time to find out what truly matters and rise to the queen level she is. It's not about others making you feel worthy, it is doing that for yourself. 

NOTES FROM
Queenie
Candice Carty-Williams

April 4, 2019
Two


The housemates themselves didn’t seem awful, but I felt very nervous at the prospect of living with white people, because I know that my standards of inherited Caribbean cleanliness are bordering on clinical OCD levels




April 4, 2019
Three


Do you know what?” I shouted behind him. He stopped walking. “I hope your next girlfriend is white, Tom. That way she won’t be too fucking much for you.”




April 8, 2019
Fifteen


Rejection was fine, rejection was a huge part of life—but twice in one day I’d been completely dropped by two men who had really put the hours in to make sure they got to fuck me. When I got on the bus, I googled kala with unsteady fingers. “Meaning black in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. Refers to any black masculine object.” Bit harsh.




April 15, 2019
Twenty-Three


Try to remember that we all encounter many issues, big or small, and that they’re all relative to us. They impact each of us in different ways. There’s nothing too trivial. It also sounds like you are dealing with some quite big losses, in a concentrated period of time. Could you tell me a little bit about how these things have made you feel?”




April 15, 2019
Twenty-Three


My recovery wasn’t going as miraculously as I thought it would. Thank God for the National Health Service, because if I had to pay for these sessions myself I wouldn’t get close to halfway to recovery before bankrupting myself. In our sessions in Janet’s tiny flat in Golders Green, once I’ve endured the journey there, we’ve battled over antidepressants (I am against because I think I’ll turn into a zombie, Janet is for because apparently they’ll calm me down enough for the therapy to take); we’ve touched on my relationships with friends (I am dependent on them to validate my thoughts and actions), the casual sex (I am dependent on it to validate my body and my control), Tom (how dependent I was on him and how much that frightened me, leading to self-sabotage), my dad (I was absolutely not dependent on him, which is why I treat men as throwaway—not sure how keen I am on this Freud-type linking of the father to the sex)




April 16, 2019
Twenty-Four


Well, maybe that’s why you’re depressed?” Diana asked as though she’d hit a eureka moment. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. No offense. I just mean, maybe if you had more fun times, you wouldn’t think about bad stuff, maybe? I dunno. Sorry.” Diana




April 16, 2019
Twenty-Four


I was meant to be stable, and loved, and . . . I looked




April 17, 2019
Thirty


One. In a shock twist, Gina told you that after your ‘surprisingly great’ gig review, the Daily Read is going to give you a regular writing slot. Scary, yes, and not quite as political as you wanted, but you can get there. So you’re doing great things at work, even though you were almost fired for sexual assault earlier in the year. Talk about a comeback! Two. Ted’s been fired for misconduct and lying by omission and you never have to see him again. Three. You’ve deleted those bleak-as-fuck dating apps that only really served to make you forget that beneath the big boobs and bum you are a human person who is easily damaged. Plus now you don’t want to look at men, never mind have sex with them.” I tensed up as the men of the last year flashed before my eyes. Mouths and hands biting and pulling and smacking and scratching and— I took some deep breaths to stop myself from getting all het up again. I still missed Tom. I missed him so much. Maybe if I apologized to him again, with a bit more space between us, maybe he’d soften? I should[…]




April 17, 2019
Thirty


She smiled at me, and I smiled back. “My queen,” she mouthed, lifting her glass.




All Excerpts From


Candice Carty-Williams. “Queenie.” Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books, 2019-03-19. Apple Books. 
This material may be protected by copyright.
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This was quick read for me. I kept wanting to know what happens next. I was reading fiction for a break from reality and it brought me through a range of emotions. I didn't know I could feel so connected to a character. I enjoyed it.
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This book did not quite land for me, but I think many 20-something millennial women who are struggling with their workplace and/or romantic relationships would relate to Queenie. I especially enjoyed reading about Queenie's friendships with the women in her life (Darcy, Cassandra and Kyazike).
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Thanks NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
While the pacing of this book was not for me, the protagonist was an interesting flawed character. We've added it to the library's collection and I know some patrons that absolutely loved it!
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