When the incomparable Nelson Mandela Passed away, like many people, my feelings were mixed.
'Relief' was present, his suffering was over, but grief was there as well, deep sadness at the loss of such a wonderful and humane man.
While I was aware of the contribution of Mandela, I admit to ignorance over the more personal details of his life, I also admit to curiosity as to the making of the man.
How did someone live through oppression and abuse, and emerge the other side unbroken, whole and willing to forgive?
One thing I was not keen to do though, was read a tribute book...... I didn't want to read platitudes, just his story, and who better to tell the story than the man himself? Decisions made, I set out to read 'Long Walk to Freedom'.
The book itself is dense with information and (appropriately) historical detail and as a reading experience it is a little bit of a challenge.
Normally a fast reader, I found myself dipping in and out of the book at regular but short intervals, not for reasons of disinterest, more to allow time to absorb the depth of information on each and every page.
A short way into the book I had the realisation, 'what I know about Mandela is probably less than ten percent of what I should know'.
I had also come to realise that it was no coincidence that this man transformed the face of South Africa.
As he describes the development of the African National Congress (happening in tandem with the ongoing and rapid demise of African rights and freedoms), Mandela also crafts us a clear picture of his political growth and of his personal qualities that, unwittingly perhaps, set him on such an extraordinary path.
Mandela is bold, articulate, proud and most of all determined to prevail. His determination seems to carry him past any natural hesitation a person might have before taking on an equally determined and infinitely more cruel government.
For this he pays a terribly high price.
I am not here however, to deliver a history lesson, just a book review.
'Long Walk to Freedom', is a masterful book from the mind of the man who mastered his natural compulsion to hate his oppressors.
Although it is indeed a long and 'mind consuming' read, I would recommend it as essential reading for all of us who admired the man from a distance. 'Long Walk to Freedom' takes the reader beyond the well known historical highlights of Mandela's struggle and eventual triumph and allows us to glimpse the making of the man.
This is surely insight worth having.
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