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Monday, 20 April 2015

Great Fictional Characters: Queenie

Continuing with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2015

Q is for Queenie.

The seductive and beguiling story of Dawn Avalon, who, when wrongfully accused of a crime she didn't commit, flees her homeland to London where she becomes 'Queenie', a star of both the stage and screen.

I was a teenager when I first read Queenie by Michael Korda, and I loved it. Goodness knows where I found it: growing up, my house was full of books- and car boot sales and charity shops steadily added to the stacks. Books were borrowed, swapped and passed back to car boot sales and charity shops in the never-ending cycle of bibliophiles with limited funds and limited space everywhere.

I kept it for many years, and read it more than once but, sadly, due to moving house a fair few times (and the occasional necessary cull) I don't own it anymore, and so couldn't reread it to prepare for this post. Looking on the web to refresh my memory, I was surprised by all the critical critic's reviews, as I remembered it being an engaging, interesting and (for teenage me) sexy little number that started me off questioning how people judge people and force them to hide a "shameful" past that I didn't consider shameful at all.

But then I clicked on the reader reviews (arguably the only ones that truly count) and I found I wasn't alone.

...a delight from start to finish.

You can't help being fascinated by Queenie/Dawn and the way she survives through the abuse of the old, british powerful Mr. Rumsey and the hate of his daughter Prunella.

I enjoyed the book immensely, personally identifying with the heroine's struggle to discover exactly what mold she's "caste" in as well as her personal and political victories over prejudice & racism in the industry.

(reviews from Amazon.com)

So is it good or not? To quote Queenie:

“It must be nice... to be one thing or another, to know where you belonged.”

But so few people, or reviews, are.

Although my recollection of the plot beyond what has already been described is hazy, I do remember rooting for Queenie on every page, furious at the ones who tried to take advantage of her and cheering when she got the better of them. One scene, where a photographer changes the lighting to mask scars on her face, stayed with me, (because it was so kind) as did her decision to not have children, lest her secret be revealed in their skin colour (because it was so cruel). The most moving part was where she finally admitted (even the word admitted implies shame) her Indian heritage and the world didn't end.

Queenie is out of print now (and I'm kicking myself for losing/giving away my copy) but, if you can find it, I think you'll enjoy it.


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