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Housegirl

3.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,117 ratings  ·  186 reviews
Moving between Ghana and London, Hold is an intimate, moving, 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.

Belinda knows how to follow the rules. As a housegirl, she has learnt the right way to polish water glasses, to wash and fold a hundred handkerchiefs, and to
...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 12th 2018 by Fourth Estate (first published June 27th 2018)
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Average rating 3.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,117 ratings  ·  186 reviews


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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
3.5 stars to House Girl! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️.5

Housegirl is set in both Ghana and London and is the story of two teen girls facing the life-expanding challenges often associated with “coming of age.”

Belinda is a rule follower, and as a “housegirl,” it is a blessing because she has to keep up with the details of running a household, according to her employers’ wishes. One of the first rules: Belinda has to forget her village and her early life.

Mary is 11-years-old, and as a soon-to-be housegirl, she is sti
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Nicole O
I feel bad criticizing the work of an author, especially a debut novel, as it feels as though I'm criticizing someone's newborn child.

However, I have to remind myself of the fact that I devoted a few hours of my life that I can never get back reading said book, and it in that respect it all evens out anyhow.

The pidgin/broken English in this book is HORRIBLE. Almost unbearable, really. The dialogue sounds as though it was imagined by a WASP who has never set foot outside of their home country, a
...more
Emer (A Little Haze)
'Hold' is a coming of age story about a girl split between two worlds; her life in Ghana and her life in London. The story follows responsible Belinda as she is sent from her position of responsible house-girl in Ghana where she lives with young Mary to become a chaperone style friend to wild child Amma in London and it shows the lasting impact these two have on Belinda's life.

Personally I found the book very hard to attain a foothold into. It took until at least one third of the way through be
...more
Paul Fulcher
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
Shortlisted for the 2019 Desmond Elliot Prize for debut fiction and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize for young writers

The two of them – Amma, Mary – in their own, very different ways , in their different times and places, had made Belinda think and laugh so hard.

Michael Donkor's excellent debut novel Hold is set in Ghana and South-East London. It opens in December 2002 with 17 year-old Belinda grieving at a traditional funeral in Ghana, but then travels back 9 months to find Belinda working
...more
Darkowaa
Jul 07, 2018 added it
Shelves: arc, dnf
DNF. Life is too short to indulge in books that make you mad. I'm sure this novel probably gets better when the characters are in London, but I can't keep on reading to get to that point. The dialogue is a mockery/insult to Ghanaians. I'm sure the (clueless) white editors had a jolly ol' time fixing the dialogue to make the housegirl characters speak 'broken english', but its a terrible, terrible attempt. I really like Donkor, but this book ultimately gave me a headache and I can't come and die ...more
Cathy
The prologue opens at the funeral of an unidentified person, lodging a question in the back of the reader’s mind as the events of earlier that year (2002) unfold in the rest of the book.

Belinda and Mary are housegirls in the home of a wealthy Ghanaians couple who, following custom, the girls refer to as ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’. (Personally, I would have liked more background about the role and employment/legal status of housegirls in Ghanaian society to help me understand better the relationship.) B
...more
Andre
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Belinda is the lead protagonist of this novel that never really hits a higher gear. It’s like being in a car riding on a flat land and never shifting out of first gear. There are no scary turns, no dangerous hills, no steep climbs, just miles of flat terrain. The novel just moves along telling Belinda’s story as a house girl in Ghana who gets sent to London, not as a house girl but to act as a friend to a girl called Amma, who is going through some tough times.

The story has no sizzle and withou
...more
Lata
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Some wonderful writing about the relationships between the women/girls in this story. And the way ideas about sexuality, one’s perception of worth, communication and interactions are affected by culture, one’s economic stability and place in society.
This is the author’s first book; the beginning is a little difficult to get through, but afterwards, the story flowed better, and I could appreciate the relationships and situations much better. And though she’s not a main character, like
...more
Anni
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
With shifts in narrative between England and Ghana, an unusual depiction of immigrant experience is found in this novel, from the perspective of two adolescent girls. Though very different in their upbringing and characters, Amma and Belinda develop kinship in their search for a place in the world, when sexual and cultural identities are in confusion. It's a fascinating glimpse into diverse British communities such as this West African one in Brixton.
enricocioni
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gender, race
Belinda, seventeen, and Mary, eleven, are servant-girls for a well-to-do retired couple in Kumasi, Ghana. Amma, also seventeen, is a British-Ghanaian girl living in London: she used to be such a good daughter, but lately something's gotten into her, she's been moody, at best uncommunicative and at worst full of "rude cheekiness", to use her mother's words. Amma's parents are friends with Belinda and Mary's employers, and, impressed with what they hear and see of Belinda's diligence and politenes ...more
DubaiReader
May 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
This looked like being the perfect read for me - a coming-of-age novel set partly in Ghana, with the additional appeal of immigration issues. Unfortunately it didn't work for me and I struggled to finish.

The narrative divides quite abruptly between Belinda's first job, when she works as a maid for a wealthy family in Kumasi, Ghana, and her move to London to become the companion of Amma, a spoiled teenager, who has become increasingly belligerent with her parents. They are hoping that a polite gi
...more
Siobhan
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hold is a moving, funny, and sad novel about friendship, shame, forgiveness, and growing up, that is set between Ghana and London. The protagonist is Belinda, a housegirl who moved from her village to Kumasi when the chance came. She works alongside Mary, a spirited eleven-year-old who became the sister Belinda never had, until Belinda is summoned to London to try and bring Amma out of her shell. Amma is a straight-A student who lives in south London with her Ghanian parents, but recently she ha ...more
Renita D'Silva
A beautiful and poignant tale
Aoife
I received this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

DNF - 25%

Hold follows the story of Belinda who is a housegirl in Ghana before she is employed to travel to London and become the companion of the wayward Amma, and the friendship between the two girls.

I was hoping to enjoy this book as the cover is absolutely stunning, and I generally love books that original start off, or have strong ties to African countries as I normally find the setting and culture so bea
...more
Safiya
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
I enjoyed reading this book. It’s not earth-shattering and there really aren’t any tense highs (or lows), but to be honest, I’m starting to enjoy this kind of book a lot more than the other kind.

I enjoyed the technically similar, but conflicting characters of Belinda and Amma; two young women of a similar age, from (in some ways) the same place with completely different experiences, thoughts and ways of moving through life. I found the development of their friendship and the way they interacted
...more
Tuti
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary, 2019
there are many things i have enjoyed in this debut novel. the original story - teen-ager belinda who works as help in a rich household in ghana is brought to london to help coping with amma, the teen-aged daughter of a successful immigrant family of ghanaian origin. this trip is taking belinda for the first time out of ghana. she stays in contact with mary, the other girl working in the same household, who is much younger, a child still - and to whom she talks about the way she discovers london. ...more
Adi Rocks Socks
3 stars

It breaks my heart to give this book just 3 stars; it had so much potential.

Hold is a contemporary novel that revolves around a Ghanaian house girl named Belinda Otuo. A near-adult, she works for ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’ as their housemaid. Her fellow house girl, Mary, is just a child, and Belinda sort of takes her under her wing, being her mentor, best friend, and big sister.

Meanwhile, Doctor and Nana, a wealthy Ghanaian couple that lives in London, has their own troubles. Their teen da
...more
Joyce
Four stars for the book, 5 for the narration, which is fabulous. Adjoa Andoh narrates in lovely Ghanaian-accented English, making even the twi phrases seem understandable. Immersive narration--I have to think it's the best way to appreciate this book (but I am prejudiced in favor of audio.) Dialect is always easier to understand heard rather than read, and Andoh's lyrical reading makes the most of characters, story, and tone. This is a coming-of-age story for three girls: Belinda, the housegirl, ...more
Story
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. This started out well but I never fully engaged with the characters.
Toni
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Savvy Little Book Club  Yvonne M.
I received an ARC copy from the publisher via NetGalley. I didn’t get pass the first chapter. Usually there’s something that captures your attention in the prologue or first chapter but the prologue was confusing and didn’t give the reader any feelings towards Belinda or a good enough hint at what’s to come. The first chapter wasn’t much better. It just threw you into it and seems like you should know what’s going on. It introduces Belinda and Mary but doesn’t describe them or the personality. I ...more
Muthoni Muiruri
Did Not Finish!!

I really tried with this book but the writing style was so off I had to put it down. Trying to follow what the author was trying to communicate was such a chore I couldn't do it. I initially read till page 63, then I skipped to 120 to see if I would get the hang of it. I read till page 140 and skipped again to 160 and I had to put it down.

I have always enjoyed African languages thrown into the story but the way this was done in the book was completely off. Random words here and t
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Eric
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I appreciate about this debut novel by Michael Donkor is that it centers on the lives of three girls---Belinda, Mary, and Amma---three very different girls all sharing Ghanaian heritage. I also appreciate that the book is trans-national set in both Ghana and England (London, particularly). As I got into the book more, I believed (and still do) that it would have been better served as a Young Adult novel. The themes Donkor presents are perfect for that genre, and if written as YA fiction to ...more
Stephanie Burton
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

Hold is a difficult book for me to review because there are some aspects of it that I absolutely loved, but other aspects that didn't work for me at all. It is a novel in three sections - two set in Ghana with a London section in between. I loved Michael Donkor's depictions of both locations. Each is vivid and exciting and we get to see, hear and even smell Daban and Brixton. The linking character, Belinda, is new to each place so I liked the
...more
Mridula Gupta
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Hold, later renamed as Housegirl, is a ‘coming of age’ novel of a girl, Bellinda who struggles between two world- Ghana and London. She is the ideal housemaid, knows her duties and performs them with perfection. Bellinda finds a sister in Mary- an 11-year-old who still can’t abide by rules.
But soon Bellinda is sent to London as a companion and friend to Amma. Bellinda misses Mary but her only hope at a decent life is to befriend Anna. As these two women start to unfold, a friendship develops bet
...more
Andre
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Belinda is the lead protagonist of this novel that never really hits a higher gear. It’s like being in a car riding on a flat land and never shifting out of first gear. There are no scary turns, no dangerous hills, no steep climbs, just miles of flat terrain. The novel just moves along telling Belinda’s story as a house girl in Ghana who gets sent to London, not as a house girl but to act as a friend to a girl called Amma, who is going through some tough times.

The story has no sizzle and withou
...more
Mairead Hearne (swirlandthread.com)
‘Friendship

Family

Shame

Forgiveness

What should we cling to, and when is it time to let go?’


Hold is the debut novel from Michael Donkor and has just been published by Fourth Estate. Moving between Ghana and London, Hold is described as ‘an intimate, moving, powerful coming-of-age novel’, telling the story of Belinda, a young Ghanaian who finds herself living in London, so utterly different from her life as a housegirl in Ghana.

Hold has a really striking cover which would light up any bookcase o
...more
Noria
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Maybe. But, like, really, aren’t we all made of flesh and skin underneath it all? Aren’t we made of much, much softer things that break too easily?”

The go-to belief of everyone, man, woman and child, irregardless of race, is that the black woman is strong. The black woman is invulnerable. The black woman is unbreakable. It is a disservice to women who hurt and bleed like everyone else but have been taught by society to swallow their hurts and pain and sometimes take joy in it, because the pain
...more
MisterHobgoblin
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Belinda is a teenage Ghanaian village girl, sold by her mother into bonded labour as a servant girl in a big house. The owners of that house, Aunty and Uncle, then sell Belinda on to a Ghanaian family living in London to be a good influence on their wayward daughter Amma.

The issues presented in the novel are real, but the characters are not particularly strong. Belinda in particular is an Everyman character, bland and compliant; not terribly happy but not terribly persuasive that she had any re
...more
Moray Teale
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is quite a debut! Michael Donkor covers a lot of ground in this immersive tale of Belinda the Ghanaian housegirl who moves to London to be a calming influence on Amma the daughter of an expatriate family whose lack of connection to their culture and thoroughly western mindset is driving her parents to distraction. Donkor addresses the problems adapting to a culture as a stranger, whether it is an entirely new world as London is to Belinda or something born to but never fundanentally experie ...more
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Literary Fiction ...: Discussion: Housegirl 36 111 Sep 02, 2019 07:26AM  
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Go On Girl! Book...: About Michael Donkor 3 6 Jan 08, 2019 05:39PM  
Go On Girl! Book...: * About The Book 3 5 Jan 08, 2019 05:28PM  

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Michael Donkor was born in London, to Ghanaian parents. He studied English at Wadham College at the University of Oxford, undertook a masters in creative writering at Royal Holloway, and now teaches English literature to secondary school students. In 2014, his writing won him a place on the Writers' Centre Norwich Inspires Scheme, where he received a year's mentoring from Daniel Hahn. Housegirl is ...more

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