BOOK REVIEW

NAME OF BOOK: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NELSON MANDELA

NAME OF AUTHOR: NELSON MANDELA

RATING: 4.9/5

SUMMARY

This book is an autobiography from the point of view of the leadership icon Nelson Mandela. The first part of the book deals with Mandela’s birth and childhood at Mvezo and Qunu respectively. His idyllic childhood life in Qunu ended when his father died of lung disease. Then his mother took him to Mqhekezweni where he was to live with his benefactor Jogintaba, a regent, who had offered to be his guardian. In this awe-inspiring home Nelson Mandela met Justice, the regents only son, with whom he became best of friends — a relationship which greatly aided their eventual escape to Johannesburg. Life in Johannesburg was especially hard but Mandela was able to complete his law degree by correspondence. Also, living in Johannesburg was a revelation as Mandela became increasingly aware of the social, economic and political injustice black South Africans lived under which culminated in his firm alignment with the liberation struggle. After many years Mandela became an ANC stalwart who galvanised South African blacks for multiple protests (almost always violent), sit-at-homes, and sabotage. The various trials that littered the road to freedom were a deep test of Mandela’s leadership potential and mettle. Hear his words when freedom was finally won for the South African natives, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

SOCIAL/HISTORICAL CONTEXT:

This book contains highlights of the 20th century, a period during which some African countries were bound by the manacles of European oppression while others were cutting themselves loose and gaining independence. Written by a man who has a messianic image, this book is a classic because it has a universal appeal, integrating themes that are relatable to readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. It goes a long way to affirm the equality of humans — white, black or coloured.

WRITING STYLE

The book is written in the first person from the perspective of a freedom fighter. Its language is extremely lofty but not unconvincing. It is paced in a relaxed manner and also very absorbing. The other characters are interconnected and adequately amplified.

MY THOUGHTS

I first heard of the man Nelson Mandela when I was 7 and reading this book only goes to reveal the reason for people’s assertion of his leadership. While promoting the welfare of the black man even under white or black rulership, the book also deals with timeless principles of patience, unity of purpose, tenacity in the face of challenges and mettle. This is one of my best books for its ability to appeal both to the intellect and emotions at the same time. I have come to understand through Mandela’s life the virtues to imbibe, the pitfalls to avoid and myself. I had to put the rating at 4.9 because of one typographical error I had encountered — just one. Otherwise this is an excellent book and I recommend it for readers who are dissatisfied with status quo.