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'People Person' by Candice Carty-Williams (audio-series)

From best-selling author Candice Carty-Williams, People Person is the follow-up to Carty-Williams' award-winning debut, Queenie - a pretty tough act to follow. Lucky for us, BBC Sounds have made People Person into a free-to-listen 10 part audio series.

Does Carty-Williams' sophomore novel hold its own? We sent our writers to find out - let's see what they thought...

Bust of a black woman looking down, with faded colours behind her. She is wearing gold hoop earrings and her hair in a loose bun. The image is framed by the rrramble colours of green, orange and pink
Illustration by Cat Crawford


I have been flirting with the idea of reading Queenie for the past couple of years, but never seem to find the time. Upon discovering this BBC Sounds recording for Carty-Williams’ sophomore novel, I thought it would be the perfect introduction to her work. People Person follows Dimple, a 30 year old wanna-be influencer with (can you believe it?) no friends, who believes she has accidentally killed her ex-boyfriend during a fight. She reaches out to her half-siblings for help, despite their only shared childhood memory the afternoon their father rounded them up in his gold jeep and introduced them to avoid any accidental incest. Nevertheless, their family bond is apparently enough for them to get involved in Dimple’s mess, thus beginning a dull, plodding two hours for any listener stubborn enough to see this story through.

I will hand it to Shvorne Marks, the narrator for this audiobook, who does a pretty good job breathing life into the cast of characters, most of whom might begin to levitate were they any more surface level. Her performance as Cyril, the absent father, is particularly noteworthy. She really captured the essence of a man slimy enough to abandon four women and five children, yet just compelling enough that I could see why he was offered so many chances. Cyril is by far the most memorable; bus driver by trade, he has a child for each stop on his route. His character, equal parts comic and pathetic, is where Carty-Williams’ humour was most effective.

Unfortunately, Dimple is just pathetic. The title “People Person” seems to describe her inability to be a free-thinking person without the people around her instructing her how to be one. Dimple’s life is often tragic to a laughable degree. In one particularly depressing scene, she receives a hug from a stranger and wonders what the socially acceptable wait time is before she can ask for another one. I don’t think I was meant to laugh here, but I did. I also rewound it and played it to my girlfriend.

I think that the dual-mood of funny and serious really isn’t meshing well in this story. I found it largely ridiculous and was laughing at it, rather than with it. Dimple is 30 years old, but acts like a 16 year old, broadcasting her social life on social media - which seems to be the only thing she does at all. Credit where credit’s due, though, she has some pretty thought-provoking insights on trains: “Every person in that carriage is someone different, going somewhere different”. I’ll start a new paragraph to give you time to sit with that.

The more serious elements of this story were often eclipsed by how quickly they were resolved, such as Dimple being blackmailed for £250k and then immediately (along with her siblings) inheriting almost that exact sum of money. The result is that these moments failed to have the resonance that they might have otherwise had had the author allowed the narrative tensions to grow instead of immediately offering resolutions. I appreciate the aim to explore family relationships, especially between siblings with different parents; I just wish the issues that brought them together were written more convincingly. Maybe I’m too much of an only child to relate to co-conspiring to cover up your sister’s manslaughter, but I was really glad when this was over. The only people I can recommend this to are those already planning on reading People Person. Just listen to this instead. It’s abridged. Also, if you’re a gold jeep enthusiast there’s a couple sentences that will really tickle you.

A silhouetted profile of a man with short, coily hair and hair on his chin. Inside the silhouette are other silhoetted profiles of faces, in varying shades of grey, stacked inside eachother like a russian doll.
Illustration by Cat Crawford


My first impressions of People Person were disappointing, it was hammy, scattershot, and kinda ridiculous in its premise. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t… this. But around halfway through I realised that the issue wasn’t with the audiobook, it was with me: I had been looking for a steady-paced and introspective drama, and then getting angry at a perfectly good apple for not being an orange. For, although the marketing doesn’t really get it across, People Person is a comedy, fast-paced, witty, chaotic, but in no way disappointing.

It’s an easy trap to hold on to my initial sense of disappointment and pedantically pick at People Person’s flaws before scathingly rating it ‘okay’, but, much like my personal idol Anton Ego embracing his ratatouille, I needed to accept this audiobook for what it was. And once started from the beginning, embracing the comedy, things changed for the better.

Because yes, People Person’s premise is ridiculous and the characters make stupid decisions, but they’re also genuinely funny. Not funny in the sense of farce and one-liners, but witty, ironic, and subtly absurd in a way that actually had me laughing out loud. And yes, it’s scattershot, but all the jumping about is in service of a single narrative that supports the audio format. And yes, it is very, very hammy, but also earnest in its hamminess, letting characters lay their emotions bare and actually connect and grow, even if it was over-the-top at times. As someone with half-siblings, it was refreshing to see a piece of media that actually took those relationships seriously, allowing its characters to be flawed without treating their relationships as somehow lesser than that of “full” siblings. So yes, maybe your ex-boyfriend slipping in vegetable oil and using your collective attempt to cover up the unfortunate consequences leading to you all maturing and becoming closer as people isn’t something that happens every day, but I felt seen.

Still, I don’t think I was wrong to feel that this story wasn’t what I wanted it to be, because if it has one overarching flaw, it’s that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be either. It had the themes and tones of a Young Adult book in a lot of places, and if I was recommending it to anyone it would be older teens, but the main characters are all around 30 and so a weird disconnect emerges. Dimple, lives with her mother, doesn’t appear to have a job, and spends most of the story learning to stand up for herself, which is fine but feels out of sync with the story’s own timeline. It’s as if it wants to be YA and adult fiction at the same time.

Overall, I came away having enjoyed the story and seeing the characters grow, but wishing the writing had played more on its strengths instead dipping in and out of serious drama. When the story loosened up, everything felt better: I got the best of Shvorne Marks’ voice acting, the characters were more human and personable, the witty writing shone through, and the moments of earnestness felt earned rather than contrived. I’m still not convinced that this was the exact right audiobook for me, but taken at its best, I know that People Person is someone’s perfect story.

Bust of a black woman looking down, with faded colours behind her. She is wearing gold hoop earrings and her hair in a loose bun. Around her are four silhouetted profile images, looking inwards at her, representing Dimple's family.
Illustrations by Cat Crawford

Edited by Abbie Reeve.


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