Jane Bwye

Grass Shoots Reviews

I am honoured to announce that Kate Honeywell, President of the EAST AFRICA WOMEN’S LEAGUE (UK) has published this review of GRASS SHOOTS in the Autumn edition of JAMBO magazine. I reproduce it here with her permission.

 

 

Grass Shoots has many layers. Using the memories and adventures of her characters with their varied histories, secrets and differing perspectives on traditional customs, philanthropy and many other issues Jane Bwye weaves a dramatic romance full of surprising revelations.

Such sagas can be overly long, but she manages it in just under three hundred pages. Covering the years 1998 to 2015 in three sections, each with a brief preface outlining the political and historical context in Kenya at the time and with a useful glossary at the end, this novel is the sequel to Breath of Africa.

The writing has the same evocative charm as the parallel lives it describes take us across the country with its breath-taking scenery and wildlife. It also confronts some disturbing aspects of Kenyan society such as squalor, crime, violence and corruption.

Both the beauty and the ugliness are largely relayed to us through the experiences and observations of Emily, an African orphan lately added to Caroline’s multiracial household. Caroline features in the earlier novel, an enlightened European who “flits naturally between the two worlds of old white settlers and modern young Kenyans.” The careers of her son, Paul, her African friend, Charles, and her mixed race foster son, Ondiek, are also followed up in Grass Shoots but all their back stories are sufficiently revealed in the narrative for this book to be complete in itself.

Emily is a central character. Young, naïve, and beautiful, Emily has been equipped by her benefactor, Caroline, for a decent job in Nairobi. We follow her journey with its terrors and triumphs to reach the confident and effective woman she becomes over the years. Another important character we meet early in the book is a disabled beggar that Emily sees when first exploring Nairobi. This is Ouma – old, disillusioned, and leading a double life in Nairobi. He has taken some street boys under his wing to help him make money. The journey of these boys towards crime changes when a nun, Sister Brigid, is kind to them but Ouma’s story is more complex.

Grass Shoots, the charity so named by its founder, Louise, is the focus of much of the action. Supporting the fictional village of Amayoni, Grass Shoots is based on a real enterprise, the Kabbubu Village Project, visited by the author whilst researching for this book in Kenya. Kabbubu is an amazing success now but Jane Bwye has used its early history well to illustrate the pitfalls of setting up and running a charity. Louise and her fellow sponsors from her church back in England encounter disappointments and resistance before Grass Shoots starts to make progress.

All the people we have met, even briefly, pass through Amayoni or become closely involved with the project. It forms the backdrop for most of the family tensions, reconciliations and dramatic disclosures in the book’s final chapters.

For me the spirit of Grass Shoots is summarised by Ondiek, who as Sam is an Oxford graduate with dreams of a prestigious museum career in the Department of Palaeontology. As Ondiek the herdsman he venerates the spirituality of his ancestors and guards their shrine. He muses: “Superstitions of old hound our people and it would take time to coach them into accepting today’s world……one day tribal tradition and scientific research will join forces to expose the secrets of our ancestors.”

Kate Honeywell.

 

By Shani Struthers. Best-selling Author. 30/3/2017

A beautiful, gently-paced love story set against a mighty backdrop - Africa! From the very first page you are drawn into another world, the people who populate it - Emily, Paul and Sam - as intriguing as the landscape. Jane Bwye specialises in African-based literature, capturing it's glory in magical words. If you haven't visited yet, you'll be left with a yearning to after reading Grass Shoots! Another triumph for her and highly recommended.

 

 

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