Cover Image: Grow Where They Fall

Grow Where They Fall

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Member Reviews

This is very much a slowburn book, where not much of anything really happens, and you learn key information through bits and pieces. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book. Kwame is such a strong and fleshed out character that he felt so inherently real, and I loved seeing the gradual growth and ebb and flow of his life through the book. This is very much a book about understanding your identity and place in the world, versus significant action or plot points.

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Despite the synopsis sounding like something I’d really enjoy, I didn’t gel particularly well with this one. Whilst I ordinarily like novels which explore different timelines, I found myself becoming frustrated that the sections weren’t more fleshed out, making the narrative seem quite fragmented.

Sadly, this book wasn’t for me, but I think it’ll find it’s audience.

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This novel is a very slow burn. I got to 100 pages in and still nothing had really happened. As the book is over 400 pages long, I've made the decision to DNF.

This will be a hit for the right audience but I need books of that length to pick up the pace earlier on. I found myself checking my page progress a lot.

Nicely written (although perhaps not literary in its structure). Well observed charectors and the dialogue is really great. It had me giggling at points.

All in all though I think this will be a really treasured read for many. I'd have carried on if it was a little shorter.

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Kwame is a Black and queer Durham graduate, sharing a flat with an upper-class wine buff. He comes from a traditionally-minded Ghanaian family and ever since his childhood, Kwame has had to fit in and conform. The novel gives insights into both his life. when he's a high school student, and a decade or so later, when he's teaching at an inner-London academy trust.

In this quiet and honest novel, Kwame’s uncertainties and feelings of being adrift until he has to make a crucial decision.

This is very much a novel about finding yourself and your place and is good for anyone who likes quiet novels to contemplate other lives. However, I didn’t find the writing to be incredibly profound. The structure and sentencing are both very simple.

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i really wanted to like this but the writing strucks me as very 'green', on a sentence-level, just not that good. the story and character dynamics have potential even if things are rather one-note.

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Michael Donkor's "Grow Where They Fall" tells the story of Kwame--a Ghanian teacher--who yearns to be himself in a world where people aren't always kind and accepting. He still has scars from his past childhood, and those events in the past (the novel is told in dual timelines so the present is influenced by the past) have isolated him from other people. He's more an observer than a participant until new events at school make him rethink his impassivity.

We don't always encounter a lot of black gay characters in novels (especially ones with Ghanian heritage), and I appreciated Donkor's eye for detail. When he starts to connect with Felix, Donkor shows his unease by how he reacts to Felix's use of his first name: "How ridiculous for the sound of your own name to put you on edge." In Kwame's world, you often do not name the very thing you desire especially if you're a black gay man. Donkor highlights the difficulty in these situations as he shows Kwame as a child, as a teacher, and as a gay man. Kwame constantly has to code switch and become the person that others want him to be.

I found this book funny, and incisive. Donkor exhibits true consideration and care for his characters, and as a result, readers want to continue reading. Highly recommended.

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Told as parallel tales, we see Kwame growing up and navigating life as a queer black Ghanaian man in London. A well written but slow paced novel of finding and accepting your identity and the struggles that accompany this.

Loved the accurate representation of teenagers in a London school. It’s clear the author drew from his own experience here in the vivid and realistic depiction in the school scenes.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to finish this book but thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this.

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This is very much a novel about finding your place. Finding yourself, in fact, and having the courage to live that life.

Kwarme is Black and queer. He's also a Durham graduate, shares a flat with an upper-class wine buff, and comes from a traditionally-minded Ghanaian family. Ever since his childhood, Kwarme has had to fit in, make himself conform to suit particular situations. Michael Donkor gives vivid insights into both his character's home life. when he's a high school student, and a decade or so later, when he's teaching at an inner-London academy trust.

There are pressures on us all to act in certain ways. Being Black and queer adds to those several times over., and the pressures don't always come from the directions you'd expect. In this quiet, emotionally honest and profound novel, Kwarme's uncertainties and feelings of being unmoored persist until one crucial scene forces him to finally make some decisions.

Not a novel to choose if you're looking for action and plot, but definitely one if, like me, you want to see the world through different eyes.

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My first Michael Donkor read. Was really excited to get this book and couldn't wait to delve into it. But I was very disappointed with the book. The writing style was just not one that I enjoyed. It felt too all over the places jumping erratically between time lines which was quite confusing. As a Ghanaian bits about the Ghanaian culture also felt inauthentic. Overall not a book I enjoyed.

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Well written, very enjoyable read. Feels like a step forward from the author's last novel. Particularly liked the main character - and the misdirection of who would end up with who. Really great.

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The second novel from Michael Donkor after his Dylan Thomas Prize longlisted and Desmond Elliott Prize shortlisted debut "Hold".

The author was for a number of years a teacher (and full disclosure did teach English at the school my nieces attend) and the novel draws on that experience (although in a different type of school) with a narrator - Kwame - who teaches at a secondary school where a new headmaster is parachuted in.

Parts of the novel also go back to when Kwame was himself a schoolboy (in fact still at primary school) and a 22 year old from Ghana comes to stay at his family house.

The novel examines these relationships and how they allow Kwame to come to terms with his own identity.

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Kwame is a protagonist who tugs at the heart strings as the reader follows parallel stories of him as a 10 year old and an adult trying to live his life authentically. Michael Donkor has a great ear for the way London teenagers speak.

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I had mixed feelings about this book. Loved the premise, loved the main character, but I just didn’t have time to finish it, which is a shame. I think so many people will enjoy it, though. Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin FigTree for the privilege of this arc.

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A Ghanaian family in the UK, a precocious and smart son, a cousin visiting from Ghana disrupting family life. Twenty years later, Kwame finds himself trying to make sense of his life. Well written and moving book.

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MICHAEL DONKOR – GROW WHERE THEY FALL****


For me, this story was a slow burn. It took me a while to get into the rhythms and speech patterns and the unusual words – so unusual that my Kindle couldn’t provide explanations. But I doubt whether I am the intended target for this book, a white male in my 70s. But I am gay, which helps. Kwame, the Ghanian main character, is gay, and this story is about his struggles as a gay young man in a Ghanian society which frowns upon homosexuality, and then as a teacher in a mixed race London school. Something the author knows well, as it mirrors his own life. The kids’ voices, I imagine, are spot on. The dialogue is excellent. Something to be savoured.

Much of the narrative concerns a Black man struggling to fit into a white society, which, as a white person, allows an insight into the/his Black mentality. Kwame struggles with history, what white people have done to Black, and, for a while, seems stuck in a groove. Conversely, he has a white friend who he shares his life with until a Black headteacher snatches him away.

Many of these characters leap off the page as we flit from teenage Kwame to adult. Some of the humour of the kids is great. Particularly liked Ahmed.

It's a slow book, one with paragraphs stretching a page or more, and long rambling speeches, some of which irritated, some of which delighted. But by the end of the book, any misgivings had dissolved. What’s more, three days later and after reading another couple of books, the characters still live on in my mind. Brilliant.

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