I’m a bit late to the party with this one, everyone seems to have read it ages ago and there’s been a buzz around it.
Here’s what we have, Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London.
At the start of the book she’s been told she’s had a miscarriage and at the same time is going through a messy break-up with her long-term white boyfriend Tom – it is a break-up despite Queenie convincing herself it’s just a break.
Now, this book for some reason has been dubbed as the new Bridget Jones and I can’t for the life of me think why.
Yes, she’s lovable, warm and funny, she’s supported by great friends, the scenes with her family were full of humour, there are lots of cringe moments and she does have a tendency to overshare, but this book isn’t a light, fluffy read. It deals with anxiety, self-doubt, racism and recovery.
So, when Queenie and Tom split up, her post break-up breakdown sets her on a path of some pretty damaging behaviour. She has a series of unprotected hook ups with a parade of veritable shits – including the bloke who insists on calling his penis ‘the destroyer’ and the Welsh rugby player who is so rough with her the nurse at the STD clinic asks her if she’s being forced into sex work.
Throughout it all she’ll admit she’s not having a good time and questions what it is she’s doing and what it is she wants to do.
We find out more about her relationship with Tom through flashbacks, from their first meeting, to moving into together to the eventual break-up. There’s times where he refuses to stand up for her against the casual racism of his family – there’s a scene in particular that is really uncomfortable and she ends up taking the blame, it’s a timely reminder that not being a racist isn’t enough, we need to it call out.
Their break-up also stems from Queenie’s inability to talk to Tom, she won’t tell him what the cause of her nightmares are – I have to say the description of sleep paralysis is the most accurate I have read, the figure making its way across the room sent a cold shiver down my spine, I didn’t know that was common, I just thought I was nuts.
There are times where her decisions are a bit frustrating, especially when she keeps making the same mistakes with said veritable shits. However, it soon starts to become clear why. She’s scared of being alone, she feels she was abandoned by her parents as child, firstly by her Dad and secondly when her mum’s abusive new husband manipulates her into letting Queenie live alone, in a flat aged 11. There’s a perfect storm in her background that leads to her believing she’s never deserved to be loved, the parade of veritable shits (I love the phrase) only serves to reinforce that idea to her.
Her year from hell, sees her lose everything, a friend (in a really cringe set of circumstances), her job, her flat and her independence when she’s forced to move back in with her Grandparents (who provide a lot of light relief in this book).
From then it’s a tale of recovery and fighting back to find out who she really is, armed with a loving family and friends and dealing with bumps along the way.
“The road to recovery is not linear. It’s not straight. It’s a bumpy path, with lots of twists and turns. But you’re on the right track.” Candice Carty-Williams.
I was relieved her problems weren’t solved by her finding a man by the end of the book
I really enjoyed this book; it’ll make you laugh, and it’ll make you stick your head in hands. You’ll empathise with Queenie, while wanting to give her a good shake. At times you won’t like her, but you will understand her, she’s flawed, she’s confused, you’ll cheer when she finally starts to see her own potential and learns to embrace her loved ones.
It’s a lesson in letting go and about her realising who is important, the ones who always have your back and the ones who really love you.
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