Queenie (novel)

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Queenie is a British children's novel, by Jacqueline Wilson. It was first published in 2013.[1] The story focuses on Elsie Kettle, a girl who lives with her Nan, until her nan catches pulmonary tuberculosis. Whilst Nan is admitted to a sanatorium, Elsie is left under the care of her estranged mother, but when Elsie is revealed to have bovine tuberculosis, she is put into a children's hospital, where she is forced to adjust to the harsh regime. Although initially teased by other children on the ward, she soon finds a close friend in Nurse Gabriel, and Queenie, the beautiful cat who lives there.

Plot[edit]

In 1953, Elsie Kettle lives with her Nan, and is excited by the upcoming coronation of Princess Elizabeth which is due to take place in the summer. Near the time of the Coronation, Elsie begins to notice her nan frequently coughing and feeling visibly tired. After Nan has gone to work one morning, she waits, but Nan does not return for breakfast before she is due to go to school. Several hours later, a policeman informs her that Nan has been hospitalized after collapsing in the factory. Elsie is then cared for by her distant mother Sheila. Her mother shows little sympathy for Nan or Elsie, as caring for her this means she has been forced to abandon her job up north as a showgirl.

Sheila later goes looking for a job, whilst Elsie plays truant from school, but meets Dr Malory during a walk, who advises her and Sheila to book an appointment to check for TB. She tries to tell her mother, who is set against the idea, but eventually agrees to go. When they take the jabs, Sheila is clear, but Elsie's arm comes up in a rash. All this time, Elsie has had a limp, which her mother has ignored, but she now puts two and two together and acknowledges that Elsie is ill. She attempts to treat Elsie by taking for an expensive lunch and buying her new pajamas, although she remains wary of catching her disease.

The following day, she takes Elsie to Miltree Hospital. Elsie at first hates it due to the strict rules and regulations, especially when the other children tease her, and her possessions are taken away for fumigation. She frequently clashes with Nurse Patterson, but manages to befriend the majority of the children by her storytelling. Elsie adores Queenie, a beautiful white cat who lives on Blyton Ward, as well as a kind nurse, Nurse Gabriel. Her mother visits her on several occasions, and Elsie, longing for Sheila to pay her proper attention, spins a story about the new Thomas splint on her knee rubbing her skin. When her mother reports this to Sister Baker, the head of the children's wards in Miltree, Sister Baker then berates Nurse Patterson, who is often responsible for taking care of Elsie. Nurse Patterson then starts to be malicious towards Elsie, including by confiscating a hairbrush she uses, and her favorite pajama top. On one night when Elsie is isolated to the bathroom for cheeking Nurse Patterson, Nurse Gabriel comes to keep her company, and tells her that she, Nurse Patterson and the other staff are leaving. Elsie then grudgingly agrees to try and behave until she leaves. Nurse Patterson tries to make amends with her in the next few weeks, and returns her cat pajamas, but she is unpopular with many of the children, and is eventually transferred to a neonatal ward, with Elsie glad she is gone.

Elsie is upset to discover she will not be home in time for the Coronation, but Sir David, who oversees the arrangements for the children's wards, allows a television set to be installed in the room, so that they can watch it. One morning she accidentally drops Albert Trunk underneath the bed, and Martin provokes her by saying that she will never see him again, leading to Elsie trying to reach under the bed herself to retrieve him, but slips. The nurses arrive in a panic, but Elsie has broken her other healthy leg, which is set in a cast - although the nurses warn her to be more sensible in future. Sheila has taken up a recent job as a PA to Mr Perkins of Perkins' Pens, and on a sudden visit she announces that she is moving with him to Canada, also and revealing that Nan has taken a turn for the worse. It is clear that he has become yet another 'uncle', and Elsie is hurt to realize that she will not see her again.

When Elsie's legs both begin to get better, the other children become suspicious of what has happened to her mother, and when Sister Baker calls her to her office, she reveals that Sheila did not pay the rent of the flat they lived in, leading to it being let go. However, she is kind towards Elsie, and lets her stay on the ward until Sir David insists she will have to leave and go into a children's home. Elsie is initially distraught at the idea, but Sister Baker tells her that it will be better to do as Sir David says until Nan maybe recovers. After saying goodbye to the other children, Queenie, Nurse Gabriel and the other staff, Elsie moves into the home, which is not as bad as she thought it would be, and Nurse Gabriel comes to visit her regularly. She spends that Christmas there, and is later given a surprise visit by Sir David, who takes her to see Nan, who is finally beginning to recover.

In the story's epilogue, Elsie returns to living with Nan and a kitten who Nurse Gabriel gave to her from a litter Queenie produced. Although her beloved Nan dies eight years later, Elsie states that she was devastated, but by then able to look after herself. Sixty years on, Elsie says that she is now married, and has her own little granddaughter. Although she is growing old, she can't help wondering if she will still be alive to take her to a future king's coronation, possibly of Prince Charles.

Characters[edit]

Elsie Kettle[edit]

Elsie Kettle is the daughter of Sheila Kettle, and the story's protagonist, born after Sheila had a one-night stand at a her crying, leading to her being placed in a children's home, which she hated. She was there for a few days, before her nan, Violet Kettle, comes to get her. After that, Elsie lives with Nan, in their basement flat in Burlington. Her mother is estranged from Elsie and does not see her daughter that often, as she is usually away on jobs or 'with a boyfriend', or 'uncle'. When she visits, she often brings her boyfriend with her, which displeases Nan a great deal. Elsie has a fantastic imagination, often to the extent that she lies about things, once to her nan about a non-existent friendship with another pupil, Laura, who is shy, and also is pals with Marilyn Hide, who regularly torments and bullies Elsie, but Nan eventually found out. However, this can make even the smallest things seem real to her, like the kittens on a chocolate box or the ballet character in a magazine. She uses this to her advantage with her mother by fudging things to get out of trouble, as her mother gets angry at her more than is fair.

She was taken to Miltree Hospital after she finds out she has a bovine tuberculosis of the knee, where she is fitted with a Thomas knee bed splint and put on total bed rest. At the children's hospital, her ability for telling stories eventually makes the other children warm to her, although her skill bores everybody else. During this time she befriends the beautiful hospital cat, Queenie, and a kind nurse called Nurse Gabriel. She eventually has to leave the hospital when she recovers, with her mother away in Canada with her boss (who is now her boyfriend), so Elsie ends up going into a children's home again, although it is nowhere near as dreadful as the last one. Nurse Gabriel comes to visit her, keeping her promise. Sir David later takes Elsie to visit her in the sanatorium and soon they come home, but to a new flat, as Elsie's mother let the last one go. Nurse Gabriel finally sees Elsie one last time, giving her a parting gift - a kitten from a new litter Queenie has had, whom they name Princess. In the ending, Nan dies eight years later, leaving Elsie devastated, but she is old enough now to look after herself. Sixty years on, the Queen is still reigning - and Elsie is still alive, now even older than her own grandmother, with a little granddaughter. Her last wish is that she wants to live a little longer, so she can take her granddaughter to see Prince Charles' Coronation.

Nan[edit]

Violet Kettle (Nan) is the mother of Sheila, the widow of Mr Kettle and grandmother to Elsie. Although she loves her daughter, she is irritated by her lack of responsibility. She often disapproves of Sheila's jobs, and even more of her boyfriends. After her daughter neglected Elsie, she had to collect her from a children's home and brought her up alone, with Sheila often away working. After developing a cough and feeling weak, she finally collapses and goes into the sanatorium to recover, where she was found to have tuberculosis of the lungs. She was once visited by Elsie, before she goes into hospital with TB as well, this time bovine. Her illness worsens after some time, even leading to her lung being collapsed. Her granddaughter is upset by the news; Sheila is uncaring. She eventually begins to recover, further invigorated by her love for Elsie. Nurse Gabriel comes to visit her, and informs Elsie of the news. Sir David brings Elsie to see her when she is out of the hospital, and Nan is soon well enough to leave the sanatorium. As Sheila has let the last home go, Elsie and Nan get a new flat, and keep a kitten called Princess - given to them by Nurse Gabriel. Sheila comes back from Canada after Mr Perkins leaves her, but later goes back into show business. Eight years after her recovery, Nan dies.

Sheila Kettle[edit]

Sheila Alice Kettle is the mother of Elsie and the daughter of Violet and Mr Kettle. Her father doted on her, even sending her to dancing lessons when she was small. She had a one-night stand when she was young at a party in Fulham with a man named Frankie, her daughter Elsie being born shortly after. Sheila cared for her daughter when she was very little, but after she left her, Elsie was put into a children's home until Nan came for her and then raised her on her own. Sheila was often away from home on a job, once working at Butlins, and rarely visiting. Although she is a pretty, charismatic blonde, she is also widely self-centered, and often puts her boyfriends - or 'uncles', who she chooses only for their looks or money - and her career above her daughter. Nan later catches TB of the lungs, forcing her to care for Elsie, who catches it as well and goes into a children's hospital. Although she came to visit Elsie on some weekends, and obtains a new job as a secretary of Perkins' Pens, later beginning an affair with the married Mr Perkins. They later move to Canada when Mr Perkins extends the business, upsetting Elsie, and only returns when he leaves her for a young Canadian woman. Since she stopped paying the rent on the original flat, she is shocked to find both Elsie and her mother have recovered and have found new accommodation. She then returns to her old job as a showgirl at The Saucebox Follies, and visits Elsie and Nan occasionally.

References[edit]

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  1. ^ "Queenie by Jaqueline Wilson - review - Children's books - theguardian.com". The Guardian. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2013.