Michael Donkor explores the life of a domestic worker in London, while rejecting the common impulse to focus on more aspirational immigrant stories ... Donkor is careful not to simplify Belinda’s connection to Ghana. Leaving home, even when one is presented with opportunities for upward mobility, is often not a linear path. Housegirl troubles the idea of ascendance ... Housegirl deviates from the most common diaspora narratives. The novel charts its own course, bucking the tradition of immigrant literature in which a character’s distance from 'home' is measured in either loss of homegrown prestige or access to Western (and it is always Western) opportunity ... Housegirl is refreshing in its tender focus: the interior life of Belinda, and the relationship she forges with Amma. Despite being set in dreary South London, the novel reads warmly. Donkor doesn’t relegate domestic workers to the margins of an immigrant story ... 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, Housegirl affords domestic workers, especially immigrant women, a far more nuanced emotional landscape than a significant number of nonfiction narratives.
It’s safe to say it is one of the most anticipated publications of the year. I was anxious to see if the story lived up to all the hype and, for the most part, it did ... The tale works very well as a coming of age story in that it highlights how, regardless of one’s station in life, young adulthood is always a difficult period full of painful discoveries ... Easily the greatest strength of the story is its rich look at Ghanaian culture. The author conveys the beauty, frustration and difficult aspects of the land as a beautiful mosaic in the background of the novel, showcasing how we are the same on the inside the world over even as our external life experiences are vastly different ... House Girl tackles some tough issues, so it is not always an easy read. It is an insightful one.
Questions of queerness, race, and social position intersect in important ways in Donkor’s debut ... Donkor’s nuanced world view allows readers to see the layers of life that intelligent, burdened Belinda discovers.
Donkor’s deft shifts between spheres and scenes—house parties populated by posh British teens; the rural village where Belinda grew up and where she and her mother are mysteriously ostracized; the opulent home where Belinda and Mary work—are confident and illuminating, revealing the complexity and nuance of modern life, particularly for immigrants. Dialogue, both external and internal, is often a delight ... An intimate and resonant take on finding one’s place in the world.
...haunting ... The captivating characters quickly draw the reader in, and the ending is pleasingly open ended, allowing the reader to continue imagining the lives of the girls after the novel is finished. Full of secrets and heartache, this is an excellent coming-of-age novel.