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A Long Walk to Freedom
Of course upon hearing of the death of Nelson Mandela I shed a tear. Mandela the freedom fighter, charity worker, elder statesman. Even Mandela the brave head of the ANC. For me it has been such a privilege to live at the same time as such a remarkable man who achieved so much and touched so many lives. Mandela will go down in history as the face of the end of apartheid in South Africa. Of course he did not do it alone but Mandela was born to change attitudes and lives. That, I believe very strongly.
A long walk to freedom is Mandela's own full and frank account of his life until the book's publication in 1995 when Mandela was 77 years old.
Covering his poor early childhood in a small hut as part of the Xhosa tribe, his move to the Soweto slums and his involvement in trying to improve the lives of the black people of Africa. Mandela was mission educated, an intelligent student who thirsted for knowledge, he qualified as a lawyer. That too created problems, he was continually targeted with hate campaigns and ridiculed in court. Yet Mandela was the man for the job, he could take it.
His ANC involvement was a necessary evil to put South Africa where it should be, he gives frank descriptions of his involvement and some of the unsavoury decisions and actions taken.
The young Mandela was driven with purpose, ruthlessly so and the retrospective account of his life is not a romantic view. He is not afraid to tell the reader about his past.
Tried and sentenced for terrorism against the white supremacy, Mandela narrowly escaped the death penalty, probably only because of the outrage such a death would have caused. He spent 27 years on Robin Island and was given his own bungalow and kept under house arrest there. This is a particularly interesting part of the book, as Mandela no doubt used his charisma to charm the guards and although the first few years were harsh, he settled into a comfortable routine in prison.
I was excited when I discovered that the film of the book is about to be released and that it stars one of my favourite actors Idris Elba and I am looking forward to seeing the film and comparing it to the book.
Learning of Madiba's death on the eve of the London premiere of the film had me reaching for my copy of the book and flicking through the pages, looking at the photos and remembering the long walk I took to read the hefty tomb a few years ago. I have since recommended the book to many people and indeed some sixth form "A" level students have utilised it to gain better marks in their exams and sought me out to thank me for my recommendation, because they say reading the information in this book brought the facts to life, made them real and made them stick in their minds. The lessons and achievements documented in the book could also be related to other events and times and it has been a privilege to be thanked for something as small as recommending a book that inspired me by a gentleman that I admire and respect.
I remember the chant "Freeeee Nelson Mandela" that led me to discover more about the man. I remember the concert "Artists against Apartheid" that raised awareness and helped bring black and white together.
The book is presented in a paperback format that stands slightly taller than an ordinary paperback. There are also a large number of photographs to account for an interesting 77 years.
A must for students of history, democracy, politics or religion. Highly recommended, I look forward to the film, but treat yourself to a copy of the book, especially if you are a student.
Anyone who has an interest in personal struggles, apartheid, culture, people or 20th Century history this is a must read book. Buy it for someone for Christmas. Following the death at 95 of Madiba on 5th December 2013, it will, I am sure be widely available and sought after, his value and legacy will go on. In our hearts. Madiba will live forever.
He forgave the people who wronged him, turning his hate instead onto the "system".
Price and Availability:
This morning it is £25.57 from Amazon, £16.03 on ebay, Available from other outlets at varying process or free to borrow from your local library.
Madiba means "father" in Xhosa language and has been adopted as an alternative name for Nelson Mandela.
I hope you enjoyed my review and found it poignant and useful?
I know not everyone will agree with my sentiments, but whatever you think, he was an important man of our time.