Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams.

          Londoner Queenie Jenkins, eponymous heroine of Ms Carty-Williams first novel, is a troubled soul:  troubled by the fact that her white boyfriend (she is black, of Jamaican ancestry) has demanded a break from their relationship:  what kind of break?  A month?  Three months?  Permanently?  Surely not, for Queenie loves her Tom, even though she realises she has been more than a bit on edge lately.  Well, some of his relatives are frankly racist, and she is against Police Brutality and into Black Lives Matter in a really big way.  Well, she has to be, innit?  (as her African Bestie would say):  when you’re black, the right-white people regard you as a bit suss anyway.  You have to stick up for yourself, and Queenie never lets an opportunity go by to do so.  Now Tom has had enough, and wants a breather.
            Oh, please God (Queenie never prays, and never goes to the family’s local Catholic church unless dragged there by her grandmother and Aunty) please may this break just be a breather?  Please may she not lose her funny, kind, loyal partner of three years because she is a damaged person, and it shows in a myriad different ways.  Please, God.
            Meantime, she has to find a new place to live – which she does and it’s definitely substandard – and new ways to pass her spare time – which she does, and has more questionable sexual encounters than she expects, some of them so rough that she is forced to visit the local sexual health clinic, accompanied by her lovely white bestie from work (where she is on a final warning) for moral support:  Queenie’s life is starting to unravel at an alarming rate, but she still clings to the hope that Tom will eventually make contact. 
You think?
            Ms Carty-Williams chronicles Queenie’s fall from grace and eventual redemption in ruthless detail, all the while using Queenie’s family as a Greek Chorus, especially when Queenie reaches rock-bottom, shifts in with her Grandparents, then decides on psychotherapy. 
            ‘ “Psychotherapy?  PSYCHOTHERAPY??!  You trying to shame all ah we?  You tink you are the only one with problems?” ‘ – Oh, granny lets her have it, before eventually conceding (because her husband said so!) that maybe that’s what young ones do these days.  Her generation just got on with it. 
            As a counter to the Greek Chorus, Queenie is constantly buoyed by the texts of the Corgis (the Queen’s corgis:  get it?), her close friends and staunch allies, all of whom provide loving and hilarious support when she most needs it.  Queenie is blessed indeed and so are we, to be part of her tragicomic journey to wellness.  This is a great story, innit?  FIVE STARS    

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