Categories: Contemporary Fiction
When Tom says he needs a break and Queenie needs to move out, she tries to tell herself it’s not as bad as all that, she’ll live for a few months in a shared apartment and then go back to he relationship, even better than before. But as her break becomes messier and messier, Queenie’s mental health deteriorates and she makes increasingly worse choices.
Whew, this book knocked me out of the park and left me a mess. It starts off rather runny, I was snorting on my lunch break, but as Queenie starts to make terrible choices and act detached from her own life, my heart started to break. I think this book hit me hard because I went through a breakdown too, some years ago, and jeopardized a lot of things in the process, including not doing my job and ignoring my friends and family, detaching myself from my life – so as Queenie becomes more unlikable and makes worse choices that a person doing okay never could understand, I couldn’t help but sympathize. We did not go through the same things at all (I’m not a black woman, for starters, and had the support of my family and boyfriend), and my heart aches so much for all the horrors she had to go through.
I think this book will not be for everyone, I suppose it’s hard to relate to a character who becomes increasingly less likable, pushing everyone away as her life implodes. But it resonated with me so hard I was almost sobbing at the end (I was in a bus, though, so I held back).
I didn’t love the writing, it felt a bit too YA-like for me and even a bit cheesy, but the emotional punch hit me so unexpectedly hard, I could not but have a special place in my heart for this book. The structure was a bit awkward, with her memories sometimes interrupting the chapters and I wish it had been done more linearly. The resolution of things started all of a sudden and she seemed to make progress rather quickly, but I can totally forgive that because my heart couldn’t take breaking anymore.
It is definitely not the light-hearted read I expected, nor the YA book I thought it was for the longest time, but I am glad that making it to the longlist of the Women’s Prize for Fiction made me pick up Queenie! This was the most emotional book I’ve read this year, so far. I don’t see any actual resemblance to Bridget Jones’ Diary (except for the bad dates, but really, this is not comparable at ALL), but it did remind me of Americanah in terms of discussing mental health issues in the black community (in case of Americanah, among Nigerians and other Africans, with Queenie it was with her Jamaican family), and reminded me a bit of The Hate U Give for the themes of racism, gentrification and Black Lives Matter being quite central to the story.