Irene Dalila Mwathi comes from Kenya with a brutally violent personal history. Once she wanted to be a journalist, now all she wants is to be safe. When she finally arrives, bewildered, in London, she is attacked by the very people paid to protect her, and she has no choice but to step out on her own into this strange new world. Through a dizzying array of interviews, lawyer’s meetings, regulations and detention centres, she realises that what she faces may be no less dangerous than the violence she has fled.
Written with grace, humour and compassion, this timely and thought-provoking novel tackles its uncomfortable subject matter in a deeply affecting way. A book about forging dignity in a world of tragedy, and raising issues about immigration and asylum-seekers through the story of one woman’s plight, Dalila is a necessary tale of our times. It is also a work of great literary power: a slow-burning, spell-binding novel about how we treat the vulnerable and dispossessed that will leave its readers devastated.
The Hollywood Reporter - Christopher Hampton, who won an Academy Award for his script of Stephen Frear's Dangerous Liaisons in 1989, has just finished writing Dalila — the story of a Kenyan woman fleeing a murderous uncle who flies to the U.K., where she applies for asylum.
Bookmuse - "A novel to help us understand the global by engaging with the personal, this book leaves you profoundly shaken. It also offers a real insight into a situation reported with more hysteria than humanity.
Everyone should read this. We are all responsible for Dalila."
Scotsman - "Dalila is written with such immense empathy."
The Sunday Times - "Donald grafts Dalila’s experiences together with the precise pace of a thriller, and it is as compelling as it is tough, sidestepping piety in favour of clear-eyed, infectious anger."
Bridport News - "Dalila does for the Home Office what I, Daniel Blake did for the Department of Work and Pensions"
Books From Scotland - "Reading Dalila did what fiction is supposed to do: it turned a key in my mind and suddenly I was looking at a completely unfamiliar slice of life in a familiar city."
The Big Issue - "Dalila feels like a Ken Loach film mixed with the pace and engagement of a thriller. It’s an important book about an important issue, compelling from the first page to the last."
The National - "compassionate, clear-eyed and engaging, and communicates the realities of an asylum-seeker’s life far better than anything else I have ever read."
Guardian - "the reader is off on an extraordinary journey, following 21-year-old Dalila through a novel that is both hard to put down and hard to continue....beautifully observed...transcends mere plot, emerging as a study of the nature of despair and memory."
Big Issue, 2017 Books of the Year - "Donald is a powerful literary writer, an author with real empathy and an unflinching eye."
Irish Tatler, 2017 Books of the Year - "An achingly brutal depiction of how society treats asylum seekers – a tale that is especially relevant in today’s world."
Times Literary Supplement - "Donald's earnest, accomplished new novel...is an unforgiving parable about the immigration system"
Metro - "A vivid, vital novel , it's shot through with humour and tenderness, but, ultimately, this brutal portrait of absurd bureaucratic cruelty has nothing heartwarming about it - and that's the point.
The Times (Saturday Review) - 'Donald's writing is vivid and immediate, told in the present tense, with a constant sense of danger and often heart rending to read. His heroine represents countless people; her story is no less powerful because it happens every day. Uncomfortable, but intensely truthful."
Dublin Review of Books - "If reading fiction is an exercise in empathy, Dalila delivers a perfect lesson in understanding and sharing the feelings of another."
UK Hardback Edition
UK Paperback Edition
Utterly compelling. Dalila, a multi-layered story of more than one displaced life, is as up-close, resonant and right-now as it gets.
- Janice Galloway, THE TRICK IS TO KEEP BREATHING
Dalila is a riveting examination of one of today’s most urgent issues. Telling the story of a young and desperate Kenyan asylum-seeker, Jason Donald writes with insight (and considerable inside knowledge) about the particular purgatory through which she and so many like her have to pass. All the more powerful for not being a mere polemic, Dalila is grippingly authentic, transparently truthful and exceptionally moving.
- Christopher Hampton, DANGEROUS LIAISONS
Dalila is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve read in a while. Succinct yet beautifully descriptive, it would be impossible for any reader to come away from it without a renewed or newfound sympathy for genuine asylum seekers. This is an absorbing, heartbreaking novel.
- Noo Saro-Wiwa, LOOKING FOR TRANSWONDERLAND:
TRAVELS IN NIGERIA
A compelling novel of a young woman’s struggle to find safety in a hostile world, Dalila examines some of the most important issues of our age. Powerful, compassionate and deeply human.
- Anne Donovan, BUDDHA DA