Two weeks ago, I moaned about the lack of diversity in commercial fiction, then a week ago I read The Madonna of Bolton– a funny, but emotional tale of growing up Northern. I mean, gay.
On the flip side of the diversity coin, this week I’m talking about Queenieby Candice Carty-Williams.
At the beginning of the novel we find our eponymous hero suffering from a miscarriage and a break-up – no, not a break-up, just a break.
Queenie is a black woman trying to find her way in life, trying to navigate her way through a quarter-life breakdown (my words). She faces all the challenges that Bridget Jones would face, but there are added complications because of her race.
Before I delve much further into the book itself, let’s talk about the commercial side of things. This book isn’t different because it features a black woman as the main character, there are lots of books out there like that, but the difference is this has the potential to become a commercial hit.
Like The Madonna of Bolton last week, this isn’t mold-breaking or genre-defining but there is here the possibility to have a commercial success of a book featuring a black woman in its lead, something a little bit different to the books that dominate the bestseller lists at the moment.
Some people will tell you that some of the sex is too graphic, that some of the Black Lives Matter stuff is too preachy, but I’ve read other books with white leads where the sex is just as graphic (though perhaps a bit more vanilla) and the characters much more militant about their ‘cause’.
Queenie’s thoughts on race don’t feel like a cause, they feel like the world-weary thoughts of someone who’s had to put up with these comments all her life.
I consider myself quite ‘woke’ – but there are things in this novel which made me realise that there are times when I might be saying the wrong things, even if they are good-intentioned.
Let’s forget race, commerciality, and what I learned – the question’s got to be… Is Queenie a good book?
It’s funny, it has a plot, and a cast of characters all of whom are believable. There are times when Queenie’s mental health experiences hit home – consider this a trigger warning – but the book doesn’t go necessarily where you think it’s going to go.
Queenie the character is fascinating but actually somewhat unlikable, that doesn’t matter though, because Queenie the book is a great read and deserves to be a huge hit when it’s published next year.
Yeah, that’s right, I’ve been banging on about a book that’s not published for another seven months but that’s ok, it gives us all the chance to make sure that everyone is lining up ready to read it when it does come out.
Queenie is published on 21stMarch 2019 by Trapeze