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on 3 June 2007
This book has over 800 pages and even its own index, but don't let that scare you off. It is far from being a boring historical report on the events surrounding his life. If you want to know what he did, go to an encyclopedia and read such a historical report. If you want to know Nelson Mandela, to know his way of thinking, to feel every emotion as he feels it, to really get a picture of the pain he and the oppressed felt, read this book.

As the book progresses, the development of Mandela's character and his way of thinking is made apparent to the reader. Every emotion that Mandela feels is shared with the reader in a deeper way than in most autobiographies, as alongside his personal struggles, there is the struggle for freedom that can incite strong feelings of injustice and sympathy in anyone. This is definately an emotionally and politically heavy book, but there are several moments of light-heartedness where Mandela expresses certain past events with an irony or humour. As he looks back on certain bad experiences, he can laugh about it.

This is a man that everyone should learn about, and this is certainly the book to read in order to do so.
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on 6 December 2013
I recall vividly the Christmas eve, sitting under the shade of farmhouse
trees near Sea View, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa when I read this
tomb of a book a few years ago. Instead of later going inside to prepare a
festive meal, I continued reading, riveted to the very end.

Having grown up in South Africa, many of the events, names and faces mentioned
in the book were a summary of the history of my own surroundings. The book not
only shocked and interested me, but left me with an overwhelming debt of gratitude
for the bravery and risks Nelson Mandela took (and many others around him) for the
benefit of others. He taught not only his nation, but the world to be forgiving and
fearless. To use our hearts and minds to ensure society is just, free and fair.

How Nelson Mandela managed to keep his own organisation functioning purposefully in a
sensible direction, when so many where oppressed, harmed and disadvantaged is a
leadership conundrum I will struggle to resolve. His charisma and dedication to the cause
will have him immortalised and his fans loyal for generations.

The book takes the reader from his humble, yet important roots from a rural childhood,
to his early days in Johannesburg and then on to become a Freedom Fighter. On the run
as the Black Pimpernel, the Rivonia Trials, the Dark Years on Robben Island and then
Talking with the enemy were the most interesting sections of the book for me.

Reading the book in one lengthy sitting exhausted me emotionally. The enormity of
Madiba's gift to all of us is huge. Man's inhumanity to man, where wonderful people
were discriminated against is hard to fathom. Apartheid is an evil that will be reflected
in history as one of the very worst atrocities.

This book does in parts go into details that people such as myself, having lived in
South Africa, would savour but could prove at times to be long winded for others. That
said, it is more than worth the effort. At the very worst, this is a fascinating and
interesting book. At best, it should be mandatory reading for all of us. I recommend
it extremely highly.
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on 22 July 2006
I will admit that as a twenty year oldguy i have not really read a whole book in my entire life..with other media like television stealing my mind, books have not really appealed to me. I dont know why i bought this book, but i can tell you that from the first page i becam glued!!! I read it at every oppurtunity i had from when i had breaks at work...to when i was goin to sleep. This book has a hook in every chapter that makes you want to read on. My friends and I knew nothing of Nelson Mandela ebfore i read this book, apart from this image that he was a hero. I now understand why, and idolise this man who dedicated his life to give the people of South Africa the right to live. This book covers everything from his early childhood, through to the ANC, His imprisonment at Robben Island...right up to the freedom that he achieved. I am not a professinal crtic, and i have no real great words in my mind that could the describe this book to its fullest...so all i will say is its AMAZING, and that if you havent read this book...do...it will make you think twice about the world we live in and understand the goodwill in people throughout this world...my next task is to read up on Winnie Mandela..who would of thought i would become a book freak!!! ;-)
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on 25 October 2001
This is a long book, but extremely worthwhile in its insights into South Africa as well as to Nelson Mandela himself. I got a real feeling from this book of what it feels like to live in a society where the state is constantly tightening the screws on your rights and freedoms. The contrast between the way that Mandela is treated outside the country (as a scholar and statesman) and at home (as a dangerous terrorist and member of a racial underclass) comes over most strongly.
Mandela's tales of prison life (of 27 years) also give an insight into the way that the political mind works. Where many would have succumbed to desperation and terminal introspection, Mandela is still compelled to debate, to organise, to protest and to educate. Finally, Robben Island was widely considered an "ANC University", and the authorities were still afraid of Mandela and his colleagues even after they had been in prison for two decades.
A fascinating personal history of one the key conflicts of the 20th century, and a must for students of democracy.
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on 18 July 2005
What a read! I like many people of my age (50's) had heard about N.M. thoughout my life. Whilst he was a man I greatly admired, I knew little about his early life and felt I wanted to know why such a good man felt the need to turn to violence. A useful insight in todays world. I started the book wanting to know more about him but was a little daunted by the books length and feared it would be 'heavy going'. How wrong I was, I can honestly say it is one of the best books I have ever read. Factually compelling and at the same time so easy to read. I still have 80 pages to go and I am reading them very slowly just because I don't want this book to end. Buy it....it is the story of a really remarkable man.
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on 27 March 2005
Having grown up in the 70's and 80's I was aware of Nelson Mandela, that he had been in prison and released. I was not aware really what it was all about. This book is a fantastic story told in a great way, with reality hard to imagine for someone in the UK. Whatever reason you are looking at this page, make sure you read this book - modern history has never been so interesting (especially if you think that 'thats not for me'). Inspirational says it all.
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on 6 March 2005
Mandela combines the gift of a natural story-teller with a lawyer's skill in presenting his tale, and from the evocative pictures drawn of his childhood in a rural tribal settlement to the impulsive adventures of youth in Johannesburg, there is an unerring sense of destiny. The image of the run-away youngster gives a telling hint of the spirited courage Mandela would need later when he took on the mantle of political pioneer in a national cause.
The sense of destiny is also there in the long years of imprisonment when Mandela's patience and tolerance are fully tested by the cruelties of long-term confinement. His accounts of rare visits from family and friends, equally rare letters, read and re-read, plus living with memories and photographs of people and places last seen up to two decades before, all have an authentic and poignant ring. Far from being dull or monotonous, the account of the years in prison is absorbing, as Mandela has a gift for bringing alive some colourful anecdotes.
Mandela manages to smooth over some events such as the circumstances of his arrest, his deteriorating relations with Winnie, and whose idea it really was to open negotiations with de Klerk, since I remain unconvinced he could have really been operating outside of previously agreed ANC criteria. However quite enough information is provided to make a full story, and nothing can detract from Mandela's towering achievement in delivering a fledgling democracy without an accompanying and much-feared bloodbath.
The many references Mandela makes to being a "freedom fighter," and his backing for the use of arms in the struggle against apartheid, could read uncomfortably in the light of more recent global terrorism concerns, and it is clear that only someone with his natural integrity could have harnessed those energies to such a constructive outcome.
Heroism, adventure, the fulfilment of destiny following a long period of adversity, plus a measure of the politician's polish in smoothing over the awkward passages, all combine to make Mandela's autobiography a great read. His fluent use of the English language alone makes the book worthwhile , and having finished it I found myself missing the companionable authority of the author's tone. The book as whole helped me to glimpse the workings of the mind of a great statesman at some key historic moments. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 5 March 2008
This is an excellent audio CD. Read by Danny Glover its tells the story of Nelson Mandella in Nelson's own words.

Starting from the very humble beginnings its tells of Nelsons journey from his tribal start through his joining the ANC, his reasoning into why he started a small army set upon sabotage, his arrest, trial and release.

What comes to front of your mind is Nelsons unbelievable belief in what he is doing. He has a vision in mind for how he wants South Africa to be and nothing can shake this. All of his actions are taken in alignment with this belief. As he has, he is willing to give his life for his people and he is willing also to die for his people.

The story has many fascinating inside some personal such as his family life and marriages, and some quite deep insight into how a man becomes a leader.

The only downside to this audio CD for me , was the sometimes monotonous and uninspiring voice of Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) a strange choice for such an inspiring speaker, and the difficulties I particular had with the pronunciation of South African names and places.
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on 13 May 2002
This was an enthralling read, not just because of the importance of the subject matter, but also because this book makes you THINK.
It absorbs you into the simple, but rich, life of his early youth, grips you with the brutality and hardship of the struggle, and then enriches you with the hope that comes with freedom after such diversity. It is written with the humility of a man who gave up his personal life for the struggle of the masses and never sought personal recognition. It is written with humour, even when describing unimaginable cruelty. And it is written by probably the most prophetic and humble being of our times, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
This book has made me reassess my priorities. It has made me appreciate life more, to question the accepted norm, and to return to a more simple way of being. This may sound a little theatrical, but I am certain that anyone who has read this book and followed the life of this great man cannot but be affected.
I cannot criticise this book. Of course I would have like a little more on his personal relationships with his wives and children, but, as he says in the book, he is uncomfortable with discussing such intimate topics, and I think one has to respect that.
Humility, selflessness, tolerance, wisdom, and a yearning for life ... those are the keywords of this valuable reference.
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on 29 August 2005
I'm not normally one for autobiography, but this book goes beyond autobiography - it is, in short, a history book, told by a man who lived through, and eventually made history, during one of the most incredible periods of the last century. It is also one of the most amazing stories you'll ever read.
It is one thing to be aware of the existence of apartheid; it is quite another to know and understand its history. Schools generally don't teach histories like this, and that's a terrible shame, because these stories are hugely relevant and useful to our political awareness today.
It is unbelievable, for example, to think that as recently as 1993, black people were not allowed to vote in South Africa. But it is equally amazing to read how a whole political system can be changed - how a government can effectively negotiate itself out of power, when it knows it can no longer sustain an unfair system.
Twinned with this political history is the forgiveness, wisdom, humility and understanding of a man who stands as a true example of what it costs to stand up for your beliefs. Truly inspiring.
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