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Review: Candice Carty-Williams' Queenie TV adaptation is female-driven and proud!

(This review is based on the first two episodes of Channel 4's Queenie)

Queen (of the) South Londoners, Candice Carty-Williams' coming of age novel Queenie dominated book chat in 2019.

It cemented Carty-Williams as the first ever Black woman to win the 'Book of the Year' at the British Book Awards the following year, so it was absolutely no surprise when it was picked up to be adapted for TV.

Queenie follows 25 year old South Londoner Queenie Jenkins as she navigates the fallout of her long-term relationship, her familial relationships and her career in journalism.

a black women wears a leotard and ears, she has braids going down her back and fishnet tights. She's in a dark room which is decorated
Dionne Brown plays Queenie | Credit: Channel 4

Starring Dionne Brown (who'd previously auditioned to play Vita Champion in Carty-Williams' BBC series 'Champion') the series opens with Queenie, legs spread as she visits the gynecologist (Laura Whitmore).

This scene is true to the original text and serves as one of the catalysts for some of Queenie's more self-destructive tendencies, along with having to deal with the racism and micro-aggressive behaviours from her white boyfriend, Tom's family.

But in other ways the adaptation deviates from the novel. We're introduced to Frank (Samuel Adewunmi) who is the cousin of straight talking best friend, Kyazike (played by singer-songwriter Bellah). There's palpable on screen tension between Queenie and Frank in a way that feels like if it was any other series they'd be endgame, but with existing knowledge of the text it'll be interesting to see how this plays out in later episodes, especially as many critiqued the novel for Queenie's desire for male validation over that of the women in her life who love her.

four women stand on rooftop looking up and something in the sky
(L to R) Bellah, Dionne Brown, Elisha Applebaum and Tilly Cooper aka Queenie's Corgis | Credit: Channel 4

At a screening held in Brixton, Clara Amfo sat on the stage of Ritzy cinema with Queenie's black female cast and Carty-Williams.

It's on this stage we hear about how Carty Williams served as the show's Music Exec to play homage to black artists and Channel U, we hear about how Cristale De'Abreu, who plays little cousin Diana, has a much larger role on screen that in the original novel and according to Llewella Gideon, who plays Grandmother and matriarch, Veronica, "had that phone everybody's face [when not filming] ...I'm afraid of what you'll see of me off screen", she laughs.

It's clear that off screen the black female cast are bonded, but how does this translate to the screen when having to tackle Queenie's obvious wider issues.

From the very start of the series we can see that Queenie has issues with her mother, who she doesn't speak to, and poor self-esteem extended from childhood trauma, evidenced by a continuous internal monologue which make her overthink constantly. It'll be interesting to see how this develops as the series progresses and whether Queenie manages to find her grounding amidst the chaos that is being in her mid-20s.

It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the series shapes up knowing what's to come from Carty-Williams' novel.


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