Fourth Estate wins teacher's debut novel at auction

Fourth Estate wins teacher's debut novel at auction

Fourth Estate has snapped up a debut "coming-of-age" novel set in Ghana and Brixton at auction.

West London teacher, Michael Donkor, received a year’s worth of mentoring from Daniel Hahn in 2014 and he been heralded as “a powerful new British literary voice” by the HarperCollins imprint.

Helen Garnons-Williams, publishing director at 4th Estate, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights in Donkor's debut novel, Hold, from Juliet Pickering at Blake Friedmann at auction. It will be published in hardback in summer 2018.

Set in Ghana and London, it follows the fortunes of three girls: “bright and sensible” housegirl Belinda, sent from Ghana to London, “wayward” Amma, born to Ghanaian parents in Brixton and Belinda's friend Mary, left behind in Kumasi.

The novel explores concepts of “home and identity, rejection and belonging” following young women navigating their way “uncertainly” into adulthood.

A Fourth Estate spokesperson said: “It is a rich, evocative coming-of-age story, marking the arrival of a powerful new British literary voice.”

Donkor was born in London, to Ghanaian parents, and teaches English Literature to students in West London. He won a place on the Writers’ Centre Inspires Scheme in 2014 where he received a year’s mentoring from Hahn, a writer, editor and translator. The one-off initiative was developed by the Writers’ Centre Norwich and IdeasTap, a now-defunct charity helping young people enter creative industries.

Garnons-Williams said: “Hold is a rare and special novel, with characters who spring off the page. It is poignant, funny and fresh - and incredibly emotionally compelling. Michael is a hugely accomplished and empathetic storyteller and we couldn't be happier to welcome him to Fourth Estate.”

Donkor said he hoped the novel would “generate conversations” about suffering, friendship and multiple cultural identities. He said: “I have carried Amma, Belinda and Mary around with me for an inordinately long time and the prospect of sharing them with others is hugely exciting. When writing the novel, one of my principal hopes was that this story would generate conversations among readers - about suffering, about the nature of friendship, about the challenges and rewards of negotiating multiple cultural identities - and I am so looking forward to contributing to and learning from these discussions.”

The writer praised Fourth Estate’s approach. He said: “They are an ambitious and distinctive house and their list of authors is luminous. Adichie and Lessing’s novels and short stories have been especially important in shaping my sense of what it means to be a writer and in underscoring my belief in the transformative power of storytelling.”

Last month Hahn announced he would donate half his winnings from the International Dublin Literary Award to help establish a new prize for debut literary translation - the TA First Translation Prize. He won the €25,000 for his translation of José Eduardo Agualusa's A General Theory of Oblivion from Portuguese on 21st June.