Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life
Sometimes your life changes and you don't know why. A kind of shift happens. I remember thinking, well, that's over: eighteen years, three months and fifteen days. From now on it will be different...'
Carmel, Jude and Katerina come from the same country town, but they couldn't be more different. Carmel is a talented musician, but awkward and painfully shy. Jude is a passionate idealist still coming to terms with the death of her revolutionary father. And Katerina, well, let's just say she's not called Queen Kat for nothing. So when they all move into the same inner-city house in their first university year, sparks are ready to fly.
But this year is a time to re-invent themselves, a time to square up to the world. Time to get a life.
Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life is about friendship, families, betrayal and love, and a tumultuous year in the lives of three unforgettable young women.
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The story is in five parts – the novel opens and closes in Manella, a small Victorian country town and home to the titular three young women. These sections beautifully frame the story, leading into (and subsequently bringing together) each of the girls’ parts. Written in first person, each portion has such a distinctive voice and really allows us to get in the heads and hearts of Carmel, Jude and Katrina. Whilst each of the three parts is written from a specific characters point of view, I love being able to watch their perceptions of each other change and develop throughout the novel.
Onto the girls themselves: there’s Carmel, a large girl with a big heart and an even bigger voice (which she keeps hidden for the first half of her book). Out of all the characters, it’s arguable that Carmel undergoes the biggest transformation during the course of the novel and (for me) had the biggest impact on the reader. Carmel’s lack of confidence, thwarted self-perceptions and her close-knit family makes her easy to relate to. Then there’s Jude, the daughter of a Chilean doctor killed amidst political unrest in Latin America – she’s hugely passionate about social justice and is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps by studying medicine. I think I really loved the idea of Jude, but overall ended up finding her a tad self-righteous and had trouble connecting with her. I felt from Jude’s section that I learned more about her father and her heritage than Jude herself. Katerina, like Jude, is a bit harder to like. Wealthy and beautiful (yet also cold and condescending), Katerina could easily fall into “poor little rich girl” territory, however McCarthy is able to elicit sympathy from the reader for her (and if you’re like me, will also have you banging you head on the wall in frustration at her naivety and thoughtless actions) and by the end of the novel, Katerina is redeemed.
Something that really struck me about this second reading was the relationships between the girls and their mothers. McCarthy has written three very different mothers, and as much as the story is about three young women dealing with entering adult life and independence, it’s very interesting to note how greatly you can pick out the way the influence of their mothers has shaped them as individuals.
My full review of Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get A Life can be found here.