Quick book picks for July

A powerful bunch this month, which all feature memorable and distinctive characters and interesting narratives. I’ve cheated and put a graphic anthology that came out in June on the bottom of the list as I only got my copy a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to share it with more people.

  • Hold by Michael Donkor – A fantastic debut novel about two very different teenage girls coming of age, Hold tells the story of Belinda, who is summoned from Ghana to London to try and bring Amma out of her shell. Full of memorable characters and vividly accurate south London description.
  • Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg – Metafictional historical romp through the life of Jack Sheppard, thief and gaolbreaker, that tackles gender, oppression, and the truth in the archive.
  • The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass – An eerie YA novel about a travelling occult group, a weird rich family, and the power of love and loss.
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Reissued this month but originally published in 1974, Oreo is a clever, satirical tale of a girl looking for her dad.
  • We Shall Fight Until We Win by 404 Ink and BHP Comics – A graphic anthology published for the centenary of the first wave of women in the UK, it tells the stories of political women, both well- and lesser- known. A powerful read and one to gift people in your life.

Hold by Michael Donkor

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 has started to seem different to them, moody and uncommunicative. They hope that Belinda will be a good example on Amma, but Amma doesn’t want to be friends at first. And when they do start to get along, their own secrets might pull them apart again.

Belinda’s perspective is distinctive and holds the novel together as she discovers new ways to think and thinks back on the past. Donkor combines this with smaller parts from Amma’s perspective, which shows the differences in their lives and points of view and also how their friendship grows slowly. The way Donkor writes their friendship—how it is forced upon them, but also becomes more natural, something of a give and take—is crucial to the novel, which is full of different comparisons.

This is a multi-faceted novel with engaging and memorable characters, and vivid locations including a recognisably local south London centred around Brixton, Herne Hill, and Streatham. It is a story about growing up and coming of age across different cultures and positions in society, but also in relation to shame, sexuality, and grief. Hold is an exciting debut that combines gripping characters with vivid description to create a coming-of-age story with fresh perspectives.