A TIME TO SPEAK by June Drummond


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An exploration of racial tensions in a small South African town called Peace Drift, otherwise known as a ""dorp"", somewhere between a dump and a torpor, centers about Ben Nevis, a young doctor who returns to his birthplace to help a stern but dedicated old doctor, Strasser, in a month's polio campaign. The campaign is jinxed by Strasser's recently fired servant, Sizwa, a black agitator and general rabble-rouser who is the town's representative of Young Africa. The boycott of the campaign ends quickly when one of Sizwa's friends, lame from childhood polio, speaks to the natives. A fire in the midst of drought, of suspect origins, adds further to racial dissension. As the book shifts kaleidoscopically around the town; we see Ben identifying more and more with Peace Drif and forming an attachment to Nella Ebenezer, the town councilman's daughter. Ben, a liberal all for a multi-racial solution, finds himself opposed to Nella's father, a white supremist reactionary. When Nella refuses to choose between them, deciding that she can negotiate, Ben accepts her ultimatum and makes his own decision -- to stay. Written in a paced journalese that never pauses long enough to reveal completely the underlying lack of substance, this small-scale exercise maintains a minimal suspense that does not generate sufficient momentum to give its tractarian theme much consequence.

Publisher: World