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John Briley’s novel was adapted from his own screenplay for the film of the same name, which in turn was adapted from two books by Donald Woods (‘Biko’ and ‘Asking for Trouble’).

It tells the true story of the friendship between white Journalist Donald Woods, and black anti-Apartheid activist Stephen Biko, in South Africa in the 1970s.  Initially suspicious of each other’s motives, Woods and Biko become united, driven by their desire for equality in South Africa.  When Biko dies in Police Custody – the Police’s story is that he died of a self-imposed hunger strike, while Biko’s body, and the routine practices of certain Police at the time make it clear that he was beaten and tortured to death – Woods is determined to tell Biko’s story to the rest of the world.  However, the South African government and Police are determined to stop him, and place a banning order on him, effectively placing him under house arrest, and not allowing him to be in the company of more than one person at a time, save for immediate family.  However, Woods is determined that Biko’s story should be told.

I enjoyed the book a lot – it made me gasp in horror at times, but was very compelling.  The injustices committed against people in this book made my eyes pop, even though I already knew something about them.

The story is told in two parts – the first covers the friendship between the two men, while the second, after Biko’s death, describes Woods’ determination to see some justice for his friend, by telling the story of Biko and what he was striving for in South Africa.  My only criticism of it would be that it doesn’t go into some areas in much depth, and I would have liked to have known more.  It does read like a novel (and is described as such by the author), and so even though it is a true story, it flows well, and is hard to put down.  I would have liked to have learned more about Biko’s life leading up to the events in the story, but as it is adapted from the screenplay, it only really describes what was happening in the film, which focused on just that time in Biko’s life.  However, I would still recommend this book highly.

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