With Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams became known for the humour and effortlessness of her tone. She managed to incorporate important issues such as racism and mental health into her novel despite its superficial lightness. People Person, her second novel, was published this year. In style and tone, the two novels are similar, but in terms of content, People Person goes in a completely different direction – it is not chick lit. Instead, the narrative centres on five London half-siblings who only begin building relationships with each other as young adults.
Cyril Pennington came to England from Jamaica as a teenager. He loves music and occasionally deejays. He earns money working as a bus driver. But what distinguishes him most is that he pursues every beautiful woman. He has impregnated four of them. This is a scandalous opening because he has not only brought five children into the world with these four women, but also neither pays maintenance nor participates in care work. Only once, when they were young, did Cyril bring all his children together. Since then, they greet each other when they meet by chance on the street and assure each other that they will be there for each other in case of need. Dimple is the middle child and, in her early 30s, a budding influencer. When problems arise in her toxic relationship with an abusive guy, she actually takes her siblings up on their offer and calls Nikisha, the oldest of the five. All the siblings come together and an exceptional situation now actually welds them tightly together. They argue, find each other exhausting, but slowly learn to appreciate each other.
In an episode of Design Matters, Carty-Williams told Roxane Gay that she developed the siblings’ characters based on zodiac signs, which is surely not the worst idea. The five are different, come from specific milieus, but somehow, they still couldn’t quite win me over. Maybe five is just too many at once to get to know them really well – and I have a feeling I would have found Lizzy or Danny, for example, considerably more exciting than Dimple. But Carty-Williams’ prose is as snappy as ever and People Person makes for thoroughly enjoyable holiday reading.
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