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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.

Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Joanne Owen

Hold Synopsis

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2019

Moving between Ghana and London, Hold is an intimate 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.

Two girls, two different worlds, one unexpected friendship.

Belinda is everything a good Ghanaian housegirl should be. Diligent and uncomplaining, she knows exactly how to follow the rules.

Amma has never been a great one for rule-keeping. And when her parents meet Belinda on a visit from England they suspect she might be just the shining example their wayward teenager daughter needs.

So Belinda must leave behind her old life and travel to London to befriend a girl who shows no desire for her company. But in this bewildering city, surprises are waiting down every bus route, and when the cracks in Amma's defences open up, the secrets they have both been holding onto are brought into the light.

Win a Brilliant Orenda Book Bundle!

Win a Brilliant Orenda Book Bundle!

Closing date: 30/06/2021

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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: 9780008280383
Publication date: 2nd May 2019
Author: Michael Donkor
Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Genres: Debuts, Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Diverse Voices,
Collections: 80+ Must-read Novels by Black Writers - Black Lit Matters, 40+ Novels That Feature Friendship,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

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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