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on 20 January 2002
I picked this book up as Christmas present for a friend who likes travel writing and the history of nations. Having read the first couple of pages I could not put the book down. Here's why:
The author (Gavin Bell)approaches an extremely diffcult topic (change in South Africa after the fall of the Apartheid government)through the eyes of a traveler. The author travels to some of the most remote and dangerous places in South Africa and interacts quite beautifully (and without judgement) with the local people. It is through this interaction that he gains insight into how things have ( or have not changed since the ANC government has come to power).
The descriptions of landscapes (rural and urban) travelled from barren deserts, tropical forests , wild animal infested savanna's, raging seas, magestic mountains, victorian dorps (villages), crime ridden cities and displaced townships are deftly intervoven with local stories and attitudes which provides an accurate and digestable history of the country.
As a South African who has been living in the UK for 3 years I can honestly say he has hit the nail on the head. Politically, he has cpatured some remarkable insights. Geographically, he has explored extensively. He has combined the two brillianlty. This is definatley a book for all, not only non-South Africans as I was treated to new discoveries and insights.
If you want to get an acurate feel for the diverse magic of South Africa, read this book.
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on 17 April 2004
A good introduction to a complicated land. The book is enaging and easy to read, but there is too much over-simplification of the complexities of the country. The humour is also too affected. For a better understanding of South Africa, read Frank Welsh's A History of South Africa; Max Du Preez's Pale Native, or Hermann Giliomee's The Afrikaners.
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on 29 October 2003
I added this book to my wish list recently as an idle reminder to myself to ask for it for Christmas. An enterprising friend found my wishlist and sent me this book as a surprise for my birthday.
I found the book compelling reading. Full of insightful comments and amusing or thought-provoking anecdotes it taught me much about South African people, politics and history without being in the slightest bit dull or dry.
By describing his encounters with ordinary citizens of South Africa Gavin Bell brings the country and it's people to life and provided me with understanding that I would have found difficult to obtain from a straight history or current affairs book.
His writing is beautiful and sympathetic and some of the best I've read in the genre for a long time.
I very highly recommend it.
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on 19 May 2014
This is an enjoyable and readable travel book about post apartheid South Africa. The author provides a good general overview of South Africa whilst digging up some obscure characters and places in his wide ranging travels. The book also has plenty of humour and wit.
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on 7 January 2013
The first 100 pages are a struggle and not as well written as what is to follow (hence only giving 3 stars) Really I would give this book 2 stars for the first 100 pages and then 4 or 5 for the remainder of the book.
Once Gavin Bell gets into his rhythm of writing it is compelling reading, it is insightful, I love the helpful Afrikaans glossary at the start of the book and the map of where he has been. It was interesting and a good read.

I would recommend to anyone to read Rian Malan's My Traitor's heart, but this isn't a bad addition to reading about South Africa also.
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on 3 April 2009
If you are planning a trip around the lesser known parts of South Africa this will serve as an excellent guide book, as well as being a very entertaining read. I had great difficulty keeping hold of my copy whilst in SA as the locals I showed it to all wanted to get hold of it! My only reservation is that it was written in 2000 and some of the detail may now be out of date.
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on 2 March 2008
As a frequent visitor to South Africa, I found this a most perceptive account of modern South Africa, revealing some surprising opinions expressed by the different ethnic groups.
Throughout his travels the author brings to life the historical events that forged the Rainbow Nation.
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on 21 October 2014
Great read. Really informative and well written
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on 18 January 2016
As described. Good quality.
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