Jean-Jacques Henri, an Algerian waiter at a restaurant in Paris, has committed murder. His story however, does not begin at the point of murder; It goes far back to South Africa, where he is known as Pitso Motaung, a mixed-race, hot-tempered young man who volunteered to join the war because he had something to prove.
Pitso’s journey, although not nearly as interesting to me as that of the Mendi and the peoples/cultures of SA, is the frame through which the events unfold. Many of Khumalo’s characters are well-developed and consistent, even though I found some of them unnecessary, or maybe just allotted more lines of speech than were strictly necessary.
I was not intensely gripped by the story, but I definitely enjoyed reading it. Before reading ‘Dancing the Death Drill,’ I had not heard of the SS Mendi. This book is a good education not only about the ill-fated ship, but also on colonial relations and racial tensions in South Africa, and for this reason, I recommend it.