Housegirl: A Novel (Paperback)
Nominated for the Edinburgh First Book Award
One of The Observer's "New Faces of Fiction"
One of The Millions' "Most Anticipated Books of the Year"
One of The Guardian's "Best Summer Books" (Selected by Kayo Chingonyi and Joe Dunthorne)
One of Library Journal's "Books to Anticipate"
A moving and unexpectedly funny exploration of friendship and family, shame and forgiveness, Michael Donkor's debut novel follows three adolescent girls grappling with a shared experience: the joys and sorrows of growing up.
Belinda knows how to follow the rules. As a housegirl, she has learned 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.
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 student at her exclusive 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 is the shining example Amma needs.
So Belinda must leave Mary behind as she is summoned from Ghana to London, where she tries to impose order on her unsettling new world. As summer turns to autumn, Belinda and Amma are surprised to discover common ground. But when the cracks in their defenses open up, the secrets they have both been holding tightly threaten to seep out.
About the Author
Michael Donkor was born in London, to Ghanaian parents, and teaches English Literature in West London.
"The friendship that gradually develops between Belinda and Amma is very persuasively observed—an intimacy forged through drunken, unsupervised house parties in the long summer after A-levels; wilful misbehaviour at dressy Ghanaian expat gatherings; and backs-to-the-wall standoffs with hostile Jamaican girls on the bus down Coldharbour Lane… 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."—Alfred Hickling, The Guardian
"At times, there are flashes of Jane Eyre in Belinda’s role as a 'governess' 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…(A) warm and accomplished novel."—Arifa Akbar, The Observer
"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 housegirls… A warm and intelligent story,offering full-bodied characters and a fortifying examination of courage."—The Mail on Sunday
"Confident and illuminating...An intimate and resonant take on finding one's place in the world even while being pulled in opposing directions."—Kirkus Reviews
"Michael Donkor is a real talent, and Housegirl is a brave, unpredictable and generous-hearted novel."—Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man
"Both moving and funny, a big-hearted book that will stay with you.”—The Guardian (Best Fiction for 2018)
"An arresting and textured novel...[Donkor] has a gift for succinct, piercing description: through Belinda’s eyes, the exotic (Ghana) becomes familiar, and the familiar (London) becomes exotic."—The Observer (The New Faces of Fiction)
"There’s something moving about Michael Donkor’s debut novel…Written as a three-hander, it is wondrous."—Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman
"A beautiful novel. A deeply engrossing, elegant tapestry of family and friendship from a stirring new voice."
—Irenosen Okojie, author of Butterfly Fish
"There’s much to love in Michael Donker’s debut novel. He has an eye for acute observations coupled with a gift for pitch-perfect metaphors that are joyful to read. But it’s the emotional truths he unearths from the inner lives of three disparate women that make the novel stand up and sing. Housegirl is a powerful and important work of fiction."—Courttia Newland, author of The Gospel According to Cane