Castles from Cobwebs

J.A. Mensah

J.A. Mensah is a writer of prose and theatre and teaches at the University of York. Her plays have focused on human rights narratives and the testimonies of survivors. Her short stories appear in collections published by Comma Press (The Book of Newcastle) and Dead Ink (Test Signal), among others. Castles from Cobwebs, her first novel, won the inaugural NorthBound Book Award and was longlisted for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize.

Read J.A. Mensah’s interview with New Writing North here.


Castles from Cobwebs


by J.A. Mensah

  • RRP: £9.99 (print) / £5.99 (ebook)
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781913393458
  • Ebook ISBN: 9781912235773
  • Publication date: March 10, 2022

Read an extract



Buy Castles from Cobwebs

LONGLISTED: Desmond Elliot Prize 2021

WINNER: NorthBound Book Award 2019

I’d always known that I was Brown. Black was different though; it came announced. Black came with expectations, of rhythm and other things that might trip me up.

Imani is a foundling. Rescued as a baby and raised by nuns on a remote Northumbrian island, she grows up with an ever-increasing feeling of displacement. Full of questions, Imani turns to her shadow, Amarie, and her friend, Harold. When Harold can’t find the answers, she puts it down to what the nuns call her “greater purpose”.

At nineteen, Imani answers a phone call that will change her life: she is being called to Accra after the sudden death of her biological mother. Past, present, faith and reality are spun together in this enthralling debut. Following her transition from innocence to understanding, Imani’s experience illuminates the stories we all tell to make ourselves whole.

Prizes and awards


REVIEWS OF Castles from Cobwebs

'A strong debut.' THE FEMINIST NOOK

'Offers a unique blend of magical realism and social commentary – the past and the present intermingle with colonial history, displacement and family ties to form a rich narrative tapestry.' RESHMA RUI, WORDS OF COLOUR

'Striking … a memorable read that shines a light on important social issues whilst telling a beautiful story of hope, friendship and self-discovery.' BETH BARKER, NRTH LASS

'Mensah doesn’t shy away from tough subjects … a well-crafted debut … an extraordinary literary talent and … a thoroughly recommended read.' EMMA YATES-BRADLEY, NORTHERN SOUL

'Lyrical and magical … a powerful and very readable novel.' LOUISE MASKILL, INDIE BOOK NETWORK

'[An] extraordinary debut … changes with every reading, like the sea, deep and light, or the flicker of spidersilk … a book to be cherished and shared.' VAHNI CAPILDEO

'A compelling exploration of memory, race, mothers and the fractured self.' JESSICA ANDREWS

'From start to finish, I was spellbound … I absolutely love this book.' YVONNE BATTLE-FELTON

‘Real, powerful, and unique.’ CHITRA RAMASWAMY NorthBound Book Award Judge