This month I seem to be catching up on the latest debut novels. On Monday I reviewed The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins and now I’m turning my attention to Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. This novel follows the eponymous Queenie Jenkins, a twenty five year old journalist living in London. Having recently broken up with boyfriend Tom, Queenie’s life starts to fall apart.
The ‘black Bridget Jones’ is a phrase that has been flung around numerous times in relation to Queenie. In some respects I understand why: it is a humorous story about the ups and downs of a single woman living in London. Yet that is where the similarities end. Carty-Williams tackles much darker themes than Fielding did: racism, domestic violence, and mental health are just some of the topics touched upon in the novel. She writes about these heavy subject matters with great sensitivity, and whilst the novel is really funny, she never undermines those serious moments with humour. The passages where Queenie is struggling with her mental health were beautifully written, full of emotion and just incredibly raw and realistic. It felt like a very accurate portrayal of mental health problems.
As mentioned the novel is funny, largely in part due to the central character. I adored Queenie. She was witty and vivacious, making the book a joy to read; I finished it within a week of starting. I was just so thoroughly swept up in her storyline and her various relationships. She is incredibly flawed and there were moments when she was unlikable, but she never stopped being a compelling character and I always wanted to know more. Also the conversations she and her friends have throughout the novel were reminiscent of ones I had with my friends when we were in our early twenties. That definitely played a part in my enjoyment; I could relate to these women in some way plus there was a nostalgic factor. Perhaps readers from other generations might have a different reading experience. Queenie’s grandparents as well were adorable and her interactions with her family were always hilarious.
It is hard to imagine that Queenie is a debut because it is very well-crafted. Carty-Williams manages to blend drama and humour excellently and moves between both with ease. Queenie is also a wonderfully written character and certainly one that I will remember for a while. I had a lot of fun reading this novel and think it deserves the success it has had.
Queenie is published by Trapeze and you can find more information here.