Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Hold by Michael Donkor

Hold was one of 2018's hotly anticipated new releases. Set in both Ghana and England, it follows 17 year old Belinda; a dutiful housegirl working in Ghana working in Kumasi until she is one day summoned by her employer's family friend, the Outo's to London to keep their 17 year old daughter  Amma company. When uprooting her life, she leaves behind Mary, a fellow housegirl who is somewhat of a younger sister to her.

Amma is a straight A student and grown up being a dutiful child to her parents. Nowadays, she's more sullen, withdrawn and just not herself. Her parents imagine see Belinda to be a shining example and perhaps just what she needs to get her out of this rut. And so the story is pretty simple, Hold is about the relationship and bond between these two girls.

It only occured to me when typing that synopsis,  how much of a stretch it is that you would literally have your family friend fly in a housegirl to be her friend. And the novel itself addresses this to some extent. Although the Otuo's treat Belinda really well, and she's encouraged to focus on her studies instead of cook and clean, their decision to uprot her from everything she knows, to keep their seemingly spoilt daughter company, does not sit well with her. Yet Donkor doesn't explore this further. 

The author's touch and go approach to all of the book's themes, made for an overall unsettling reading experience. We can tell Belinda has a lot of emotional baggage surrounding her own upbringing in the village, but this isn't thoroughly explored. We can tell Amma is struggling with her sexuality, but again this isn't thoroughly explored. It seems Donkor's style is to meander through characters without much structure or plot. Whether or not you'll enjoy this style I believe rests entirely on whether you enjoy a stream of consciousness style of writing or not. I went in expecting a solid plot and didn't find one which made it incredibly difficult to settle into. 

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome when reading Hold is the language. While I did enjoy the seeing the Twi language thrown in once in awhile, alongside this Donkor attempts to write in Ghanaian pigeon dialect. 

You can tell he tried but it was so painfully and badly executed and; there was too much of it to ignore. A clear example of someone who thinks they know how Ghanaians speak without ever really listening to or speaking to Ghanaians living in Ghana. I appreciate that dialect is a hard one to pull off in fiction but in which case, he should've left it alone. Hold, feels aimless, cliched and lost. 


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