Blog of Sara Jakša

Book Review: Bessie Head's A Question Of Power

Being a part of the series, featuring the African women writers, I had expected the feel of Africa to rick from the book. But I was pleasantly surprised. Bessie Head’s book, while being staged in the Africa, it is not the main question of the book. It is the balance of people’s spiritual power and the fight between good and evil. The title ‘A Question of Power’ describes it really well.

While being a really practical book, it does have the themes of religion as well. Not one particular one, since there are mentions of the Islamic religion, the Buddhist religion, Christianity, and the only Egyptian religion. Not only that, there are mentioned of the groups, like black activist groups and Ku Klux Klan. While they are not the main part of the story, they could bother somebody, that is strictly against religion.

I distinguished the two themes in the book. First was the battle between good and evil. The second was that we, as people, are the ones, that create reality and we are the ones, that have the most power, because God, in all his importance, does not have the innocence and naivety, that help us connect and understand each other.

Book is divided into two parts, describing the mental and spiritual pact of two people on Elisabeth. The single mother of the mix rase, that has the biggest spiritual power, but she is unaware of it. Sello on the end remarks, that he will never let her discover it, because he know, what the power can do to people.

It starts by showing Elisabeth at her worst, putting the time frame of the scene on the end of the book. Both people are next to her, and she know, that they brought her there. The tone of that, mixing the time frames, is present throughout the book, but not as much as to impede the reading.

Sello and Dan, the two people, represent the two forces in our world. Sello is a person, that is fundamentally good, but since he believes in people, he can push them through suffering, if it is for the greater good. Dan, on the other hand, is a person, corrupted by power, where he destroys everybody, that does not comply into his godly vision.

They are the ones, that occupy the mental space of Elizabeth, but they are also showing her other people, like The Father, the poor, the prostitute, and so on. By introducing Medusa and then records that Dan puts into her head, she ends up in the mental hospital and later almost committing suicide.

But the people around her, the carefree nature of her son Shorty, the thought of Tom, the niceness of Mrs. Jones, the stability of Kenosi are the ones, that after getting the lavage out of hell, brings back her sanity and energy.

What I liked the best, was a quote in the end, where Elisabeths is worried, so to apologize and she hears: ‘You will make up for it’. No matter what mistakes we do in life, there are always chances to make up for it, to ourselves and to other people.