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Tandia - Book Review

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by Ashleigh Meikle (subscribe)
Writer, student, traveller.
Published December 9th 2012
Over the twenty-one books he wrote in twenty-three years, Bryce Courtenay worked magic with the written word, invoking the power of the African bush and the history of his country of birth, South Africa, in many of his books like The Power of One and its successor, Tandia, both set during apartheid South Africa.

Tandia begins with the death of Natkin Patel, a South African Indian, and his illegitimate daughter, Tandia, whose mother was African, being brutalised by a police officer called Jannie Geldenhuis. It is just the first time that this officer will brutalise her and use his attitude of white supremacy to try and get her to do what he wants her to do. Tandia is powerless to object: she is a child, and by apartheid laws and the view of the Afrikaner, represented by Geldenhuis, not equal to the white man.

Tandia's journey to becoming a a female coloured lawyer in the fifties and sixties of apartheid South Africa, something that is seemingly impossible for anyone but the white South Africans, runs parallel to the journey of Peekay, the protagonist of The Power Of One reading law at Oxford and focusing on becoming the welter weight champion of the world. Both Tandia and Peekay achieve their goals and eventually, through Gideon Mandoma, Peekay's "brother" and Tandia's first boyfriend, meet and become associates in a law firm that Peekay and his friend Hymie Levy start up to fight the apartheid laws and bring about a better South Africa for all.

Their journey and progress is under constant threat from Geldenhuis and those who harbour similar desires to keep the races separate and reinforce the superiority of the white race over the coloureds and the Africans. Yet Tandia and Peekay's relationship and law practice blossoms until a devastating event at the annual Christmas Party thrown by Hymie's father that unites the races puts them all in jeopardy. The death of Mama Tequila, Tandia's guardian until she became a lawyer, and the owner of a brothel drives Tandia, Peekay and Hymie to fight harder and forces Peekay and Tandia to flee the terrorised land towards Swaziland and what they hope will be a better future.

The heartbreaking and shocking end of this novel was not what I expected. The bittersweet ending of Peekay and Tandia's tales moved me immensely. Having been born during apartheid in South Africa and having gone back to visit family several times over the past twenty-six years, I have seen the changes that Bryce Courtenay's characters and their real life counterparts such as Nelson Mandela fought for all those years ago. This book is a must-read for Bryce Courtenay fans.
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