Queenie | Review

Queenie Book Cover
Queenie Candice Carty-Williams Women’s Fiction Scout Press (Simon & Schuster, Inc.) March, 2019 Hardcover 330 Public Library

Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.

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… Queenie… Queenie…

I sat on this review for a long time trying to decided how to properly put my thoughts about this novel into words. Because it’s complicated, not in a good way

Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.

Read the above quote… Now, read it one more time.

I was less than 25% into Queenie when I began to question whether the person who wrote the above quote had read either Bridget Jones’s Diary or Americanah. Because Queenie had very little similarities between either of these books. When I read the last page I questioned if the person who wrote the book’s blurb read Queenie.

Let’s start out with the good. Queenie is a quick read, engaging enough to keep readers’ attention. Candice Cathy-Williams’ writing style that makes the overall experience of reading Queenie easy. There was hints of humor that broke up the seriousness of the overall story. I’m interested in seeing how Cathy-Williams writing style develops in the future. The support system that Queenie has amongst her group of girlfriends is one of the most authentic aspect of the story. Each friend entered Queenie’s life at different times and are supportive in their own way to her during downward spiral. Queenie also has an amazingly supportive family, that tries to support her even though they have problems understanding.

That’s the good.

Queenie is a character driven story and doesn’t have a specific plot. It’s the story of a period in Queenie’s life when everything becomes overwhelming and she struggles to deal. Character driven stories are my favorite but Queenie didn’t do it for me. I struggled to understand some of Queenie’s decisions throughout the story, and even at the end I was still confused. There has been a lot of talk about Queenie’s sexual practices in the bookish communities so I won’t go into it here. But I will say, some of the justifications of Queenie’s behaviors didn’t pass the smell taste. While her early life trauma was real and difficult, there were several times in the story when Cathy-Williams hinted at something much darker. And the fact the story didn’t take the turn I was expecting made Queenie’s behavior all the more confusing to me.

One of the most enjoyable portions of Queenie is the friendships Queenie shares with other women. That statement comes with a little asterisk. Queenie’s friend group seems very real, each the women has a special bond with Queenie and fill different roles in her life. I thought it was very realistic for Queenie friends to have never met even though Queenie has known them for years. Unfortunately, only the dynamics of the relationships where positive. The women as individuals were troubling. Putting it simply each of the women were a walking stereotypes.

Queenie’s childhood friend Kyazike, is the gold digging black chick from the hood complete with a single parent that works longs hours to make ends meet. Kyazike is worried about her appearance and prefers the nicer things in life. The one thing Kyazike likes less than an ugly man is a broke man.

Cassandra and Queenie became friends in college. Rich and Jewish, Cassandra is a straight shooter. She has problems interacting with people because her bluntness borderlines on rudeness. Cassandra is quick to slip Queenie funds whenever she mismanages her money, and she not worried about Queenie paying her back. Until Cassandra can use her moneyed status as a power play and put Queenie in her place.

Queenie’s work best is Darcy. Darcy is the white savor of the story. She is out of touch with the slang and one point is directed to Urban Dictionary. Darcy saves Queenie’s butt at work as Queenie’s personal life creeps into her ability to perform her job. Darcy is (IMO) treated the best of all of Queenie’s friends because white savior is not really a stereotype and more like an archetype. Darcy’s only real flaw is she constantly covers for Queenie and she is out of touch.

Back to how this book was sold. If you were expecting a cross between Bridget and Ifemelu, lower your expectations. Queenie is not as funny as Bridget or as insightful as Ifemelu. There are all the making in this story for a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Americanah. But it fell so far short. From the writing displayed in Queenie Candice Cathy-Williams could probably have pulled off the blend of Bridge and Ifemelu, but it just didn’t happen. The promise was there; the execution was not

While I can’t recommend Queenie to anyone, I do look forward to what Candice Cathy-Williams does in the future. Her writing shows a lot of promise, even though her first attempt fell far short from the mark.

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