22 January, 2017

Colour Bar: the triumph of Seretse Khama and his nation by Susan Williams

This inspiring true story caught my eye in the strangest of places, on the small screen. It’s very rare for me to first hear of a story this way and compel me to find the book, so my initial reaction of seeing this title on the Auckland Libraries website was one of surprise then determination in reading it.

Colour Bar is the historical account of the lives of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams. He was the heir of Bangwato, the largest nation in Bechuanaland; now called Botswana. She was a white English clerk. Their love and consequent marriage shook the world. Many throughout the British and South African government of those post World War II years, worked to keep Seretse away from his home and away from power. However, despite their political machinations, Seretse ultimately came home thanks to his own calm attitude and persistent work for the country and people he loved. Seretse Khama became the first president of the newly independent Botswana on 29th September 1966.

Although there are many chapters pertaining to the political upheavals and historical events that stood on their path, this book is mostly a love story. It is, according to the Daily Mail, “one of the greatest love stories of the twentieth century,” because through all the hardships of estrangement and exile, Seretse and Ruth remained steadfastly loyal to one another and their love only grew stronger as their family grew.

If I wasn’t shaking at the injustices, I was crying my heart out as I read this memoir. For me this was an exceptionally well written book of a love that triumphed over the prejudices of their age. I truly believe that this is how history should be written.

For those interested, Seretse and Ruth’s story is now dazzling the silver screen under the title A United Kingdom.

Author: Susan Williams

Recommended by Surani R, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson. 
Surani R enjoys reading biographies, travelogues, some non-fiction, and loves fiction that makes you laugh out loud. She also finds comfort in children’s fiction with thought-provoking stories. 

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