CHAIN OF FIRE by Beverley Naidoo


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Like Journey to Jo'burg (1986), to which it is a sequel, this is less a novel than a powerful dramatization of the injustices of apartheid. When authorities, with the collusion of the local chief, prepare to move the people of their village to a prison-like ""Homeland,"" Naledi--now 15--and her brother help organize a student protest, only to have it brutally suppressed. Charismatic Saul Dikobe, who has recently been released from prison for his political activities but is still ""banned,"" is murdered by police while exhorting the villagers to stand together. Despite heroic efforts from the young people, a local minister, and others, then, the ""Homeland"" move takes place--with ancestral graves and valuables left behind, goods deliberately smashed, and bulldozers devastating the remains. Characterization is minimal here, and personal lives are in abeyance; parents are powerless to comfort their children, while Naledi's budding friendship with Dikobe's son may never have a chance to blossom. Instead, hearts--like molten iron--are forged by the fire of apartheid's vicious cruelty into links of friendship that will become chains of political power. Stark, honest, unleavened by the poignant human detail that made the stories in Rochman's Somehow Tenderness Survives (1988) so memorable: a compelling picture of the results of South Africa's racist policies.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1990
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Lippincott