There's a compelling charm to this autobiographical story of a small boy growing up in French Guinea, in the valley of the Niger. There's quiet assumption of the dignity of his people, the Malinke, descendants of the black Sudanese; of their pride in their way of life, while recognizing that other ways have something to offer them. There's a rational Mohammedanism thinly coating the animistic beliefs and superstitions of their forebears. Women hold a role considerably in advance of that in many Mohammedan countries, and Laye has drawn his mother in bold lines. The style has an almost Biblical sweep and rhythm. The story, with few incidents, conveys a rounded sense of the factors in his coming into manhood, his going away to school, his winning of a scholarship for schooling in France. It is the sort of book that demands personal endorsement and word of mouth enthusiasm. It won't sell itself.