Read In BED: Queenie

Review & Image by Hannah-Rose Yee

“I undressed and climbed into the tub. I lay on my back and moved a hand across my stomach the way I’d done when I’d last had a bath. Tom wasn’t here this time, though. I didn’t know where he was. I stared at the ceiling and felt my chest tighten. The bathroom door opened and my grandmother burst in. I covered myself with the flannel.

‘Let me wash your back,’ she said, grabbing the flannel and lathering it up with a bar of Imperial Leather that she must have bought reserves of in the sixties.’

‘No, no, I’m fine, I’m not a baby,’ I said, covering myself with my hands.

‘I washed your back when you were a baby and I’ll wash it now,’ she said, tipping me forwards until my forehead rested on my knees. I closed my eyes and let her scrub my skin.”

Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie is heartbroken. Her longterm boyfriend has just told her that he wants to go on a break and she’s moved into the dingiest flat in South London to give him some space. But she can’t focus at work, her friendships are falling apart and she can’t shake the loneliness deep in her bones.

This novel, hailed by critics as a black Bridget Jones’s Diary, is a marvel. Written by debut author Candice Carty-Williams, it’s a tale of fucking up and making mistakes the likes of which you might never have read before. Queenie is no one-dimensional heroine. She’s messy, aggressive, emotional, frantic, melodramatic and funny. But she’s also struggling, her beautiful head raised just above the surface of the water, below which she is floundering.

Rarely are women in popular culture given permission to take up such space, to shout and rave and cry and love. Queenie does all of those things, all while trying to make her way through the year after her crippling breakup. The book touches on her relationship with her estranged mother and the grandparents she lived with as a child, with her group of girlfriends, most of whom don’t understand how much Queenie is struggling, and, lastly, with herself.

Like Bridget Jones’s Diary, the magic of Queenie is in its specificity. The descriptions of Queenie’s terrible Tinder dates, or the ways that men use their power over her, will bring back cringes of recognition for anyone who has been single in their 20s. The awful flatshares, the blind-siding hangovers, the destruction and the chaos… We’ve all been there.

Queenie touches on it all, never concerned with going too deep or too dark, because its central message burns so brightly: we all deserve to be loved. No matter what Queenie does, or what happens to her, or how things pan out, Queenie has so much love coursing around her. She has love from her friends, from her family, from her mother, from her colleagues and even from herself, if only she would let herself see it.