Book Review : The Longest March by Fred Khumalo – reviewed by Vasi Govender

When the lovely people at Penguin sent me this book to review, I just knew that my mum would enjoy it. She was a brilliant and dedicated History teacher for many, many years with a keen interest in South African History. It just so happened that she came to visit a few weeks ago and pilfered this book from my shelf, haha! So then she was tasked with writing the review and did a fantastic job! 

Genre & Themes

Local Fiction, South African History

Main themes – Racism in the South African Context, The Will to Survive

Minor themes – Homosexuality, Religion and Friendship

The story begins in Johannesburg at the beginning of the South African War and revolves  around Philippa and Nduku who are struggling to find themselves as a mixed race couple. Philippa is a coloured woman who could pass for white and Nduku is an educated and well respected Zulu man. Unknown to Philipa, Nduku is also fighting some other demons within himself. When war is declared they find themselves among thousands of mine workers making their way to Natal on foot,  over 500 km away. Philippa is the only white woman on this incredibly arduous journey.

Muhle (a white male who grew up amongst  the Zulu) is to lead this March with Nduku as his right hand. It is Nduku’s task to convince all the Zulu mine workers that it is in their best interest for them to join this March. He engages the help of his long time friend, Xhawulengweni to ensure the success of his task. Nduku does not want to disappoint  Muhle.

Xhawulengweni is eager to help his friend but he has ulterior motives…rather sinister ulterior motives.

As a former history teacher, the plot captured my interest immediately.  I am always amazed at the strength and resilience of the African in his fight to be recognised as a person in his own right. This struggle was very prevalent during the time of this story. We get insight into the indignity which the African male had to suffer and endure despite being educated. This was very relevant  to our many South African  stories on racism.

This book covers an incident in our history that hasn’t been given much coverage. It does however show the strong bonds among African and their allegiance to their leaders. The presence of mission schools and its influence is very prevalent. Homosexuality was evident even as early as the early 1800’s.

My favourite  character is Xhawulengweni. We see him struggling with himself throughout the book.  He is the person you love to hate but who comes through in the end.

A comfortable 8
Want it? You can buy the book here or here. Happy reading!

Thank you to Penguin Random House South Africa for the opportunity to review this new release and thank you to my mum for this review. If you are looking for more good reads, you can have a peek at my bookshelf.



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