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by Michael Donkor

Debuts Modern and Contemporary Fiction Sharing Diverse Voices

LoveReading View on Hold

Crossing cultures, continents and generations, this exquisitely involving exploration of frictions between family and friends, of love, loss and the criss-crossing complexities of life truly had me in its hold.

In Ghana, sensible housegirl Belinda performs her domestic duties to perfection, with irrepressible eleven-year-old Mary shadowing her work. Mary brims with childish obstinacy, and with a daringly direct wisdom beyond her years. She’ll stamp her feet and curl her lip for attention or sympathy, but she’s also gloriously curious, a devoted, proud, joyously forceful bundle of humanity. Then Belinda is summoned to Brixton to befriend Amma, a privileged and troubled young woman. Amma initially refuses to play ball. She’s childishly rude, but they learn from each other and even confide their deepest secrets. When tragedy strikes, Amma rages: “The cruelty of the fucking world is proved fucking every day. The unfairness of life is just, like, unbelievable”. Ultimately, though, both young women evolve and broaden their outlook on the world and who they are.

Alongside the heartfelt human drama, there’s much humour too, such as when Belinda describes Britain to Mary – it’s a peculiar place where cats “sleep in the bed with the white people” and “they kiss the animal as if it hasn’t roamed around the town eating sewage.” Her assessment of TV host Kilroy-Silk is hilarious too. He may seem “fully white”, but his “face is more orange then usual”. 

Poignant, finely-observed, funny and eloquent, this is an exceptional debut.

Joanne Owen

Hold Synopsis

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2019

Moving between Ghana and London, Hold is an intimate, powerful coming-of-age novel. It's a story of friendship and family, shame and forgiveness; of learning what we should cling to, and when we need to let go.

`You have to imagine. That's how I told myself.'

`Imagine what?'

`Imagine that you are the kind of girl that can cope with it, even if you are not.'

Belinda knows how to follow the rules. She has learnt the right way to polish water glasses, to wash and fold a hundred handkerchiefs, and to keep a tight lid on memories of the village she left behind when she came to Kumasi to be a housegirl.

Mary is still learning the rules. Eleven years old and irrepressible, the young housegirl-in-training is the little sister Belinda never had.

Amma has had enough of the rules. A straight-A pupil at her exclusive South-London school, she has always been the pride of her Ghanaian parents. Until now. Watching their once-confident teenager grow sullen and wayward, they decide that sensible Belinda might be just the shining example Amma needs.

So Belinda is summoned from Ghana to London, to befriend a troubled girl who shows no desire for her friendship. She encounters a city as bewildering as it is exciting, and as she tries to impose order on her unsettling new world, Belinda's phonecalls back home to Mary become a lifeline.

As the Brixton summer turns to autumn, Belinda and Amma are surprised to discover the beginnings of an unexpected kinship. But when the cracks in their defences open up, the secrets they have both been holding tight to threaten to seep out...

Hold Press Reviews

At times, there are flashes of Jane Eyre in Belinda's role as a


of sorts, but there is no Mr Rochester to save her from her life, nor a sugary ending. The focus is on the love that flows between women and the need for Belinda to find a place that feels like home ... Their lives are hard, yet a profound sense of hope resonates from within Donkor's warm and accomplished novel. Arifa Akbar, Observer

`Donkor's principal achievement is the dignity and generosity of spirit with which he imbues a central character from a largely invisible seam of African society' Guardian

`Donkor's debut novel concerns itself with those who don't traditionally get much of a look-in when it comes to fiction: two Ghanaian house girls... A warm and intelligent story, offering full-bodied characters and a fortifying examination of courage' Mail on Sunday

`Hold is refreshing in its tender focus: the interior life of Belinda, and the relationship she forges with Amma ... Donkor's empathetic rendering of Belinda's interiority is perhaps the greatest strength of a novel that is impressive both in form and in scope. Though fictional, Hold affords domestic workers, especially immigrant women, a far more nuanced emotional landscape than a significant number of nonfiction narratives' Atlantic

`Michael Donkor is a real talent, and Hold is a brave, unpredictable and generous-hearted novel' Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man

`There's much to love in Michael Donkor's debut novel. But it's the emotional truths he unearths from the inner lives of three disparate women that make the novel stand up and sing. Hold is a powerful and important work of fiction' Courttia Newland, author of The Gospel According to Cane

`A beautiful novel. A deeply engrossing, elegant tapestry of family and friendship from a stirring new voice' Irenosen Okojie, author of Butterfly Fish

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780008280383
Publication date: 02/05/2019
Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780008280345
Publication date: 18/06/2018
Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780008280345
Publication date: 18th June 2018
Author: Michael Donkor
Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Hardback
Genres: Debuts, Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Diverse Voices,

About Michael Donkor

Michael Donkor was born in London, to Ghanaian parents. He studied English at Wadham College, Oxford, undertook a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway and now teaches English Literature to secondary school students. Many of the issues in this novel are close to his heart, and his writing won him a place on the Writers' Centre Norwich Inspires Scheme in 2014, where he received a year's mentoring from Daniel Hahn.

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