While People Person contains several madcap plot turns and implausible red herrings, it is anchored in emotional realism and a hopeful warmth...The novel is highly empathic towards its characters’ struggles to accept the indelible failings and traumatic legacies of their childhood and regain agency over who they are and how they want to be...Ultimately, this is a delightful, uplifting and emotionally satisfying novel about building new connections in the face of deep-rooted abandonment wounds and hideous disappointment...The Pennington siblings may never get the paternal love and approval they so crave – but they have each other, and that’s more than enough.
... a tender, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling to cooperate with one another in the strangest of circumstances. People Person is a light, darkly funny, and highly entertaining read, with cracking dialogue and a cast of fully formed, beautifully rendered characters. Full of the same wise observations and social commentary as Carty-Williams’ first novel, Queenie, People Person is an immersive, joyful and deeply satisfying read. I believe Sara Collins summed it up best: ‘Cyril Pennington is a character for the ages, but this story truly belongs to the children he never managed to parent. I loved it.’ Candice Carty-Williams is indeed a talent to greatly admire. I cannot wait to see what she does next.
... immersive ... Carty-Williams excels at taking us inside the heads of unpolished, vulnerable, flawed characters ... Along with getting deeply involved in the Penningtons’ shenanigans, readers may well catch unnerving glimpses of themselves in the pages ... The novel also has a strong sense of place – it is clear the author’s heart has always been rooted in south London ... The author brilliantly portrays the bonds, and jostling, found among African diasporas who have made the UK, and namely south London, their home ... This is a highly personal book – Carty-Williams has explained it was born of a conversation between her and her older sister Selena around sibling loyalty – and the world of the Penningtons is infused with humour. Their interactions are so well-observed, you’ll wonder whether the Queenie author has been eavesdropping on your conversations with your own siblings ... A gripping study of the intangible nature of sibling bonds, then – and what you might do for someone you share little more than DNA with.
An homage to the vibrancy of south London’s Black community, the novel features a slate of protagonists who attest to the city’s cosmopolitanism and the spectrum of Black identity ... The array of Black identities, personalities and body types Carty-Williams depicts is refreshing and honest, a far cry from hackneyed media portrayals that present Blackness as a monolith ... A novel for the digital age, People Person seamlessly weaves technology into its roving plot ... Moments of laugh-out-loud prose punctuate the novel ... Carty-Williams deftly addresses anti-Black racism and microaggressions, while harnessing the power of comedy to drive her point home ... But, sometimes the writing feels exceedingly casual, with the cadence of a text message exchange rather than a work of literary fiction. At such moments, Carty-Williams leans on exposition over sensory description ... The ambition behind Carty-Williams’s novel calls to mind what Zadie Smith brought to her first novel, White Teeth. And to some extent, Carty-Williams is to south London what Smith is to the north: a sharp, humorous voice that paints greater London’s Black communities with the nuance they deserve ... But Smith’s ability to thread a series of disparate events together is less assured in Carty-Williams’s novel, which devotes too much time to its exposition. And minor tangents, like a protracted explanation of Danny’s prison stint, distract from Carty-Williams’s ultimate message about the importance of family ... Nevertheless, through her nuanced portrayal of the Pennington siblings, Carty-Williams deftly grapples with the unique challenges they face as Black Londoners. Among them are overcoming White beauty conventions, resisting the looming threat of unjust treatment by police and learning to love themselves as they are — with or without Cyril’s coveted affection.
Even as the plot expands to take in blackmail, revenge porn, sibling tensions and wrongful imprisonment, the story struggles to build momentum...And there is something disingenuous about a novel that uses the bland generalisations of therapy-speak as its primary means of making readers invest in its characters rather than by fleshing out the characters as believable individuals...Carty-Williams is clearly better than this...All the same, People Person suggests a novel written at speed, possibly at the behest of her publishers...If so, one can only conclude they were in such a rush to capitalise on the success of Queenie they didn’t bother to read it...How else to explain the two-dimensional characterisation, the implausible sequencing of events, the irksomely sloppy narrative tone?...Or perhaps it’s simply old-fashioned to think that editors should still care about this sort of thing...Either way, it’s hard not to wonder whether Carty-Williams’s publishers have placed greater stock in flaunting their diversity credentials by publishing a novel that isn’t ready than they have in nurturing and supporting her talent...She and her readers deserve better.
Based upon what we know so far of these ambivalent relatives who are harbouring some unresolved resentment toward each other, it requires a lot of blind faith and gullibility to believe that these 25+-year-olds (with things to lose such as kids and jobs and partners) would, without much questioning or convincing, be prepared to hide a body in a 'murder' that very much looks like an accident ... There’s so much fretting and melodramatic buildup that when everything is miraculously wrapped up with a single, finger-wagging chat, you feel cheated ... Where Carty-Williams reigns is in writing humorous speech. The way she uses quick-witted dialogue to highlight strained relationships makes it easy to imagine People Person on screen ... Her portrait of Cyril’s jovial yet crumbling facade is written with such clarity it feels almost biographical ... I wish Carty-Williams had realised the Penningtons needed few theatrics to reveal their dysfunction and focused on creating more organic moments such as this, rather than setting her characters up with all of these banana skins and trap doors that made them read like a Scooby-Doo ensemble ... Still, although the plot devices sometimes feel too clunky or too convenient, People Person has much of the same coming-of-age themes that fans of Queenie will be familiar with, from navigating through bad relationships to finding yourself amid chaos.
... lively but chaotically plotted ... a joyous example of Carty-Williams’ skill for character ... this narrative device, on which the story hinges, is undermined by the fact that one sibling does trust them, and it seems strange that Dimple, the privileged daughter of a successful barrister, would harbour such a deep distrust of the system that employs her mother ... Once the siblings are together, Carty-Williams is able to use her eye and ear for playing out familial intimacy and knottiness ... But the loose ends from the burial hang over the novel, just occasionally name-checked ... It’s Cyril who is, ultimately, the novel’s most original creation and its most compelling presence. This raises the question of whether a father who felt unable to participate in his children’s lives might have made for richer psychological terrain in the first place.
Carty-Williams is also a prolific screenwriter and journalist, the woman behind the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, the first inclusive initiative of its kind in book publishing...Other details of her impressive biography tell us that she was 'born in 1989, the result of an affair between a Jamaican cab driver and a dyslexic Jamaican-Indian receptionist'...It’s a line that captures the tone of her fiction, which is deadpan and arresting and frequently inquiring, from a writer who highlights the humour in everyday life, while also trying to understand what makes people tick...This objective is to the forefront of her second novel, as evidenced by its title, People Person...Protagonist Dimple Pennington is a 30-year-old aspiring lifestyle influencer, whose fake online life is nothing like reality...To her small (but growing) following, Dimple is outgoing, popular and in a tumultuous romance with bad-boy Kyron...In the real world she has no friends and is struggling to get out of a relationship mired by emotional blackmail and coercive control...Carty-Williams excels when writing in the Jamaican patois...but there is a huge amount of dialogue in this book, pages and pages of action unfolding through lengthy conversations, which are often expository in nature...The prose is pedestrian, a functional third-person perspective that lacks the intimacy of the first-person voice in Queenie...There are cliches aplenty.
... darkly comedic ... There's good-hearted fun in trying to keep track of each of the Pennington siblings' backstories as their lives smash together in the most unexpected ways. As their stories emerge, so too do their inner selves ... These personalities weave together amid a plot as heartfelt as it is hilarious. Carty-Williams probes hard questions about race, microaggressions and abandonment within a larger, somehow softer story about what makes a family, what makes a friend and what happens when the two are one and the same.
Combining relationship fiction, dark comedy, and domestic thriller, People Person is ultimately about how Cyril’s absence plays out for each of his kids. As she did so shrewdly in her stellar debut, Queenie (2019), Carty-Williams also weaves astute sociocultural commentary into the Penningtons’ story and their crackling, near-constant dialogue.