NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019 BY WOMAN’S DAY, NEWSDAY, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, BUSTLE, AND BOOK RIOT!
“[B]rilliant, timely, funny, heartbreaking.” —Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You
Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.
Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.
This reading group guide forQueenieincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and not feeing entirely comfortable in either. She’s worked hard to obtain a job at a national newspaper, but once there, she finds she’s constantly comparing herself to her white, middle-class peers and coming up wanting. Plus, there’s the break-up with her long-term boyfriend. Unmoored, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places, making many questionable decisions.
As Queenie careens from one poor choice to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What were your first impressions of Queenie? Did you like her? Were you surprised to hear the story behind Queenie’s name? How does hearing the story from Sylvie affect Queenie? Do you think that Sylvie chose a fitting name for Queenie? Explain your answer.
2. Queenie tells Tom, “Well, your family; it’s what a family should be.” (p. 293) Discuss her statement. What is it about Tom’s family that Queenie finds so appealing? Compare her family to Tom’s. Did you find Queenie’s family to be supportive? Why or why not?
3. Describe the structure of Queenie. What’s the effect of the shifting time frame? How do the flashbacks help you better understand Queenie and her relationship with Tom? Do the texts and emails that are included also help you better understand what Queenie is thinking? If so, how?
4. When Cassandra says that Kyazike’s name is “like Jessica without the ‘ic’ in the middle,” Kyazike corrects her, saying, “No. Like my own name. Not some . . . Western name. Chess. Keh.” (p. 170) Explain her reaction. Why is it important for Kyazike to correct Cassandra’s assertion? Why does hearing Kyazike’s name impress Queenie when they first meet?
5. After Queenie pitches an article designed to shine a light on the Black Lives Matter movement, one of her colleagues responds by saying, “All that Black Lives Matter nonsense . . . All lives matter.” (p. 376) Discuss Queenie’s reaction to this assertion. What’s her counterargument? Why is it so important for her to cover the movement?
6. Gina tells Queenie, “Whenever I’ve had a huge upheaval, my mother has always said, ‘Keep one foot on the ground when two are in the air.’” (p. 224) Why does she offer Queenie this advice? Were you surprised by the kindness that she shows Queenie? Do you think Gina is a good boss? Would you want to work for her? Why or why not?
7. After a conversation with Darcy, Queenie thinks, “I wished that well-meaning white liberals would think before they said things that they thought were perfectly innocent.” (p. 178) What does Darcy say that leads to Queenie’s reaction? Think about the comment. Why is it so charged? How does Darcy’s comment highlight the differences between Queenie’s and Darcy’s experiences?
8. What did you think of Guy? Why does Queenie spend time with him? How does she describe their interactions to her friends? Contrast the reality of their interactions to what Queenie tells her friends. Why do you think that Queenie romanticizes the details?
9. According to Queenie, Darcy, Cassandra, and Kyazike “all represented a different part of my life, had all come to me at different times; why they’d all stuck with me I was constantly trying to work out.” (p. 174) What part of Queenie’s life does each woman represent? Describe their friendships. What does each woman bring to Queenie’s life? Do you think that they’re good friends to her? Why or why not?
10. Queenie’s grandmother tells her, “If you are sad, you have to try not to be,” causing Queenie to muse that “all of my grandmother’s responses come with a Caribbean frame of reference that forces me to accept that my problems are trivial.” (p. 46) How does Queenie’s grandmother deal with problems? How does she react when Queenie broaches the subject of getting counseling, and why?
11. Janet asks Queenie “what do you see, when you look in the mirror, when you think about yourself as a person?” (p. 510) Why is this such a difficult question for Queenie to answer? How would you describe her? If someone posed this question to you, how would you answer it?
12. What did you think of Queenie’s lists? Are they effective in helping her navigate stressful situations? What’s the effect of including them in the novel? How do the lists help propel the story forward? Did you learn anything interesting about Queenie from her list of New Year’s Resolutions? If so, why?
13. Sylvie feels that she “let [Queenie] down, I should have been better to her, that way she might have been better herself.” (p. 315) Why did Sylvie leave? How did her departure affect Queenie? Describe their relationship. How does it evolve throughout the novel?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. When Queenie is searching for a new flat, one of her considerations is fitting “the books that I’m determined to carry throughout life with me.” (p. 57) Have you read any books that you feel compelled to keep with you as you moved house? Tell your book club about them. After hearing about all the books that the members of your book club love, choose one for your next discussion.
2. In talking about her family, Queenie says, “‘Food is love’ is my family’s unofficial motto.” (p. 439) If your family had an official motto, what would it be? Share it with your book club, explaining its origins.
3. At Christmastime, Queenie watches Love, Actually, “a film that usually makes me roar with laughter through sheer disbelief.” (p. 309) Watch Love, Actually with your book club. What did you think of it? Are there any particular scenes in the film that you think Queenie would find unbelievable? Which are they and why?
4. Tom gives Queenie a headscarf as a gift during their first Christmas together. Why is this gift so special to Queenie? Have you gotten any gifts like that? Tell your book club about them, and explain why the gift was so meaningful to you.
Candice Carty-Williams is a senior marketing executive at Vintage. In 2016, she created and launched the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, which aims to find, champion, and celebrate underrepresented writers. She contributes regularly to i-D, Refinery29, BEAT Magazine, and more, and her pieces, especially those about blackness, sex, and identity, have been shared globally. Queenie is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @CandiceC_W.
“Brilliant, timely, funny, heartbreaking.” –Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You
"A must-read novel about sex, selfhood, and the best friendships that get us through it all." —Candace Bushnell, bestselling author and creator of Sex and the City
"A book that sneaks up on you... I am hooked." –Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist, via Twitter
"Candice Carty-Williams delivers a hilarious roller coaster of a story." –US Weekly
"[A] brazenly hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is first novel." –O, The Oprah Magazine
"Vibrant, confused and honest, Queenie is a relatable heroine for modern times." –USA Today
"You'll likely feel seen while reading this (yes, it's that relatable), an example of what happens when you go looking for love and find something else instead." –PopSugar
"Candice Carty-Williams, a young Londoner, has a flair for story-telling that appears effortlessly authentic. Her title character is a woman you both know and cannot forget... Carty-Williams has taken a black woman’s story and made it a story of the age." –TIME Magazine
“The vibrant Queenie is a modern-day Bridget Jones's Diary, and so much more... [Carty-Williams’] debut reads a lot like its smart, sensitive protagonist: full of flaws and contradictions, and urgently, refreshingly real.” –Entertainment Weekly
"[A] hilarious, heart-shattering, deeply lovable novel... Debut author Candice Carty-Williams has created a truly one-of-a-kind heroine in Queenie, whose story is universally relatable without ever flinching in the face of challenging subjects that are more important now than ever. All hail Queenie." –Newsday
"You’ll read Queenie, a novel about a young Jamaican British woman trying to find her place in London, in one day. It’s that good." –Hello Giggles
"Meet Queenie Jenkins, a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman who works for a London newspaper, is struggling to fit in, is dealing with a breakup, and is making all kinds of questionable decisions. In other words, she's highly relatable. A must read for '19." –Woman's Day
“My favorite novel this year. Queenie is the sort of novel you just can’t stop talking about and want everyone you know to read. Snort your tea out funny one moment and utterly heart breaking the next, (and with the best cast of characters you’ll read all year), I absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to read whatever Candice writes next. If there is anything right in the world, Candice Carty-Williams is going to be a literary superstar.” –AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs. Bird
"Queenie is the best mate we all want—funny, sharp, and more than a little vulnerable. I loved climbing inside her mind and wish I could have stayed longer. I adored this novel." –Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars
"Hilarious and off the wall and tender." –Nikesh Shukla, author of The One Who Wrote Destiny
"Candice Carty-Williams is a fantastic new writer who has written a deliciously funny, characterful, topical, and thrilling novel for our times." –Bernardine Evaristo, author of Mr. Loverman
“I ate up Queenie in one greedy, joyous gulp. What a treat of a book. Lots to enjoy and think about. I loved Queenie and was cheering her on all the way. I thought all the mental health stuff was brilliant and so well done and authentic—it so often isn’t, in novels—and also all the unhappy sex rang so true. Is there a sequel planned? All I wanted to do when I finished was to open book two.” –Cathy Rentzenbrink, bestselling author of The Last Act of Love
"Queenie has all the things you want in a debut novel—a startlingly fresh voice, characters you fall in love with from the very first page, and a joyous turn of phrase that makes this book almost impossible to put down. In turns hilariously funny and quietly devastating, Queenie is an important, timely story." –Louise O'Neill, bestselling author of Asking for It
"A really special book with much to say about black female identity, sexual politics, group chats, emotional becoming in a way that feels totally unforced. Filthy, funny, and profound." –Sharlene Teo, award-winning author of Ponti
“This book isn't even out yet and people are talking about it. Written by a new and exciting young woman, it's articulate, brave and, in the new parlance, 'woke.' Funny, wise, and of the moment, this book and this writer are the ones to watch.” –Kit de Waal, author of My Name is Leon
“Candice gives so generously with her joy, pain and humour that we cannot help but become fully immersed in the life of Queenie—a beautiful and compelling book.” –Afua Hirsch, author of Brit(ish)
"So raw and well-written and painfully relatable. It's also clever and funny and has the most glorious cover." –Ruth Ware, #1New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10
"The protagonist of this debut novel has been dubbed the 'black Bridget Jones' and comes from England buoyed by praise from Jojo Moyes. Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican-British woman, a newspaper reporter in London, forced to re-evaluate her life choices after a bad breakup with her white boyfriend. A trio of girlfriends offers support via text messages; we can’t wait to meet them all." –Newsday
“Adorable, funny, heartbreaking. People are going to love it.” –Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina
"An irresistible portrait of a young Jamaican-British woman living in London that grows deeper as it goes." —Entertainment Weekly (ew.com)
"Sometimes achingly sad, at other times laugh-out-loud funny, Queenie is a welcome debut from a seriously talented author." –The New York Post
"Carty-Williams creates an utterly knowable character in Queenie, who's as dimensional and relatable as they come as she tries to balance her own desires with what everyone else seems to want for her... This smart, funny, and tender debut embraces a modern woman's messiness." –Booklist (starred review)
“With resonant reflections on race, relationships, sex and friendships, Queenie is a terrific debut that’s delivered with a touch of British humor and plenty of feel-good moments.” –Bookpage (starred review)
“[A] smart, fearless debut… This is an essential depiction of life as a black woman in the modern world, told in a way that makes Queenie dynamic and memorable.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A black Bridget Jones, perfectly of the moment." –Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A charming read for fans of women's fiction; Carty-Williams sets herself apart with her relatable and poignant writing." –Library Journal
"What Carty-Williams also adeptly deals with is the role of technology in our modern lives. Which sounds so serious, but the way she weaves in text messages, e-mails, and more makes Queenie’s world feel so real. Basically, the second the book opened with Queenie in stirrups at her gynecologist’s office, I knew I was sold. Kirkus calls Queenie, “A black Bridget Jones, perfectly of the moment,” and I am deeply inclined to agree." –Hey Alma
"Carty-Williams adds her voice to a timely conversation about mental health, sex and womanhood." –Time.com
"Queenie is the book for anyone who has ever asked: who am I? And how do I get there?" –PopSugar
"Already referred to as the black Bridget Jones, Queenie is the literary heroine readers seek in 2019." –AM New York
"They say Queenie is Black Bridget Jones meets Americanah. But she stands in her own right—nothing can and will compare. I can't articulate how completely and utterly blown away I am." –Black Girls Book Club
"In this Bridget Jones-esque story, a Jamaican British woman working at a London newspaper seeks comfort in the wrong places after a messy breakup from her white boyfriend." –PureWow
"This bloody brilliant novel is heralded as 'Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah,' and you’ll be sold from page one." –Hello Giggles
"[A] wry, candid novel... Reading about 25-year-old Queenie as she navigates romantic entanglements, a frustrating job at a local newspaper, the ongoing tension among her and her white, middle-class peers, and pressure from her Jamaican British family, feels like listening to a good friend's woes and wins — and cheering her on along the way." –BuzzFeed
"The story of how 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins balances her Jamaican and British heritages while navigating professional inequalities and romantic dilemmas is Black and brilliant all on its own." –Essence
"Queenie is, quite simply, the best novel I’ve read this year so far... Queenie is an incredibly well-written, compelling novel about life in a modern London for young black women." –All About Romance
"I'm reading Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. It's very funny... I'm loving it." –Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
"Queenie goes on heartbreaking, hopeful, sometimes funny, and always relatable journey." –REFINERY 29
“I was sucked into Queenie’s world from the first page... To say this is a relatable book for a twentysomething woman is an understatement… By the end of Queenie’s journey to self-discovery, I felt like her close friend.” –Book Riot, "Best Books of 2019"
“With exuberant prose, Carty-Williams takes us inside millennial Black British life (and joyfully into friendships), and all around (gentrifying) South London.”–Electric Lit
“Carty-Williams’ desire to handle race bluntly and clearly, yet refuse to be dogmatic about it… is what makes her debut novel sing… [Queenie] brings you into her world as if she’s known you forever, right from the start… This book is equal parts millennial comedy and treatise on modern race relations, and a work of fiction that leaps from the page as all truth, no filler.” –Sam Sanders, host of It's Been a Minute
"A smart, briskly paced novel." –BookPage
"In what is perhaps the funniest novel on this list, a 25-year-old Jamaican-British journalist finds herself single again after her longterm relationship with her white boyfriend goes in the bin." –Bustle
"Love a book that gives you all the feels? Queenie, the character and the novel, are both brave and hugely funny. The story by Candice Carty-Williams will have you careening from relatable cringes to laughter to tears." –Good Housekeeping
"Carty-Williams deftly depicts a woman struggling through depression and self-destruction, and offers an astute commentary on prejudice in Britain today." –Time Magazine
“Poignant… [with] an irresistible heroine.” –Seattle Times
“This book is equal parts millennial comedy and treatise on modern race relations, and a work of fiction that leaps from the page as all truth, no filler.” –NPR
“I found this book to be the most important one I’ve read for twentysomethings struggling with self-acceptance—especially in the modern dating world… Carty-Williams does a fantastic job of creating a relatable character who learns that acceptance comes from within.” –Book Riot