If you’ve stumbled across #BookTok, TikTok’s subcommunity of bibliophiles and literature enthusiasts, you’re probably familiar with the latest movie, Red, White & Royal Blue take the internet by storm. Directed by Matthew López, the playful romantic comedy is based on Casey McQuiston’s 2019 debut novel of the same name. It follows Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), son of the first female President of the United States, and Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine ), the king’s grandsons, who find themselves in an unlikely romance after a public altercation over a tiered wedding cake.
The couple share a love of reading – although their specific literary tastes may differ.
Yes, Red White and Royal Blue is your classic tale of enemies and lovers falling in love. And while it got a few weird reviews from viewers, it also garnered a significant amount of reviews praise. Many appreciated the film heartfelt portrayal of queer sex while others celebrated Henry and Alex’s interactions, which were cheesy at times but also incredibly loving.
In one particular scene, the two enjoy a vacation together in Austin, Texas, where they read books in a shared hammock. The intimate moment, albeit brief, makes clear how different and similar Alex and Henry are as individuals. Of course, the former is American while the latter is British. But despite their different nationalities, the couple share a love of reading – even if their specific literary tastes may differ.
Here’s a closer look at what Henry and Alex’s reading choices say about them:
Henry’s book: “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernadine Evaristo
Henry, the distinguished royal heir, is fittingly reading a novel by British author Bernardine Evaristo. The novel is titled “Girl, Woman, Other” and is described as postmodern literature, LGBTQ+ fiction, and postcolonial literature, which seem to be Henry’s favorite genres, considering he also enjoys reading Zadie Smith. Henry is an avid reader, but that doesn’t mean he gets caught picking up a young adult book or a cheesy love story. He’s more into timeless classics like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Of course, his favorite holiday read is a co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, alongside Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments.
Evaristo’s novel tells the intergenerational stories of twelve black British women whose lives are intertwined across chapters and different settings and times. There is theater director Amma preparing for the premiere of her acclaimed new play at the National Theater. There is Dominique, Amma’s best friend, who becomes involved in an emotionally unstable relationship with a woman named Nzinga. And there is Amma’s wayward daughter Yazz, who is learning more about the world through the friends she makes at university.
There’s also Carole, who lives in a high-rise apartment in south London with her Nigerian-born mother, Bummi. Carole finds support in her teacher, Shirley King, while Bummi finds love in her employee, Omofe. There’s Megan, a queer woman who finds solace in her relationship with Bibi, a trans woman. And don’t forget Penelope, the adopted (and racist) daughter of white parents, who is shocked to learn more about her true parentage and ethnicity.
In an interview with The guardEvaristo explained that her book has a strong focus on people, who are often “different”:
“I wanted to turn presence into absence. I was very frustrated that black British women were not visible in literature. I narrowed it down to 12 characters — I wanted them to range from a teenager to someone in their 90s and see their development from birth, albeit not linearly. There are many ways that otherness can be interpreted in the novel – the women are different in so many ways and sometimes from each other. I wanted it to be identified as a novel about women as well.”
Racism, feminism, politics, patriarchy and relationships are just a few of the topics covered in Girl, Woman, Other. But gender and identity are central. Similarly, Henry’s own story is about gender and identity as he struggles to navigate his way as a gay, cis-male prince. Along the way, he also seeks the acceptance he craves so much, both from himself and from loved ones.
Alex’s book: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Yes, Alex is reading One Last Stop, the sexy LGBTQ+ romance novel written by none other than “Red, White & Royal Blue” McQuiston. It’s a fun tongue-in-cheek that still fits with Alex’s overall aesthetic. In the novel, young woman August Landry, a cynical pseudo-detective, falls in love with Jane Su, a punk lesbian from an entirely different era, after somehow meeting on the subway. (There’s some magical time travel, along with subway rides.)
“August’s crush on the tube becomes the happiest part of her day, but she soon realizes there’s a big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old-school punk rocker,” reads the article Summary of the plot of the book. “She’s literally been transported back in time to the 1970s, and August will use everything she’s tried to leave behind in her own past to help her.” The novel also features many queer-friendly supporting characters, one of which is Transgender roommate to drag queens.
When it comes to Alex’s literary tastes, he has made it clear that he is a fan of James Baldwin and Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. So a contemporary sci-fi romance novel is a bit surprising and more escapist than his favorite novels. But it also makes sense, because just like the main protagonist of the book, Alex is bisexual and a college student in his 20s or so.
Alex is also American, so his favorite reading is set in New York City rather than London, and he has a keen interest in politics. So much so that he helps his mother (Uma Thurman) with her election campaign and even gives her advice on how to win her upcoming election. Additionally, Alex is incredibly vocal about his identity, particularly his sexuality and Latinx ethnicity. Along with identity and sexuality, race and ethnicity are two core themes in McQuiston’s book, particularly for Jane, who is Chinese-American.
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