Books

Housegirl

Michael Donkor's debut novel follows three adolescent girls grappling with the joys and sorrows of growing up.

Michael Donkor

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 defences open up, the secrets they have both been holding tightly threaten to seep out. (From Picador)

From the book

The coffin was like a neat slice of wedding cake. Looping curls of silver and pink, fussy like best handwriting, wound around the box. It waited by the gashed earth that th emen would rest it in. The mourners admired, clucking. Belinda made herself look at it. Her phone vibrated in her handbag but she let it rumble on. She brought her ankles together, fixed her head-tie and straightened her dress so that it was less bunched around her breasts. She passed her hand over her puffy face and then saw that eyeliner had rubbed onto her palm in streaks.

Belinda's inspection of her messy hands was interrupted by the shouting of the young pallbearers on the opposite side of the grave. They stripped off and swirled the cloths that had been draped over their torsos moments before, then called for hammers. Three little boys, perhaps six or seven years old, flitted back with tools heavier than their tiny limbs. The children hurried off with handfuls of sweet chin chins, nearly falling into the hole not meant for them and only laughing light squeals at how narrowly they had avoided an accident. Belinda wondered if she had ever laughed like that when she was their age.


From Housegirl by Michael Donkor ©2018. Published by Picador.

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