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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation
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on 21 March 2015

Nelson Mandela was a legend. He was a man worthy of iconic status. I really wish that the book ‘Invictus’ by John Carlin was memorable to me for the right reasons, but it was not.

I would regard this book as a credible source of reference for historical or political matters during that era. But it did not read like a novel to me.

So why did I think ‘Invictus’ the book was so dreadful? There you have it my review summed up and I’ve barely begun to explain.

All the ingredients to produce an incredible inspiring novel were there just waiting to be utilised and wonderfully woven to produce a truly inspiring novel, but this is not it! I felt like I was reading a scattered scrambling of events which happened during those turbulent years.

These events were extremely important culminating in Mandela’s true genius coming to the fore with him finding a passage to solidarity despite impossible odds.

Nelson Mandela was ‘The Most Famous, Least Known Prisoner In The World’. He sought to rectify the humongous injustice where 50,000 white farmers owned 12 times as much arable land as 14 million black people. He rose above such terminology as Kaffir. Nelson Mandela’s incredible insight into the human condition enabled him to draw many masterful conclusions:


Quotes like this one from ‘Invictus’ make me very glad that I decided to persevere with this book. I believe if Nelson Mandela had actually written this work himself the magical magnetism of Mandela would have manifested itself. I have no doubt that the film was amazing but that was an entirely different use of medium in the telling of his story.

I have learnt the back round to that all important rugby game in June 1995 and how Mandela harnessed the passion of a nation to get behind the Springboks and in so doing unbelievably united enemy with enemy. I felt that John Carlin only began to write with true ‘writer’s spirit’ in the final two chapters of this book. In these chapters I could identify the true potential of a monumentally gripping novel.

So to sum up, I learnt a lot about Nelson Mandela and Apartheid and the strength of the human spirit. The book was not what I would call an engaging or enjoyable read but it is an important piece of work which gives valuable information in to what went on behind the scenes in one of our species’ greatest productions.

Reading ‘Invictus’ by John Carlin inspired me to write the following in memory of a truly inspiring man; Nelson Mandela:

You burnt you pass book, they swamped those blood stains.
For 27 years they held you in chains.
As leader of the discerning ANC
A reader of learning how great you proved to be.
Restrained from Winnie and Zenani your daughter
Refrained from revenge. You walked on water!
In a country so parched a non freedom zone
Head high you marched; you let them atone.
You glimpsed their souls those incarcerators of You
Released the hand of friendship, paved paths to redemption new.
A highly trained athelete. Black and White game played out like chess
Your wily ways obsolete eyes bright; embracing enslaver’s caress.
ONE TEAM ONE COUNTRY, Not so berserk!
Guided, abided by South Africa’s Star.
Such faith in your tormentors
Your ancestors Apartheid scorned
Yet You banished all ‘resenters’
The SPRINGBOK’S SYMBOL soon adorned.
Your very own torso, you wore symbolic slave
Incredible, Inspiring, None more so

E O’C 2015
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on 27 May 2013
Reading Mandela's 'Long Walk to Freedom' may be good for you but perhaps too long a walk, too many pages? If so, at least try this, a very appetising introduction to the biography of surely one of the most remarkable men ever to walk the earth. Carlin assembles the realities of apartheid, Mandela's cruel imprisonment and how he used his superior intelligence to outwit and subsequenty overcome the cruelties of his captors, followed by the hazardous deconstruction of the Boer regime in a way analogous to a phase of play in the rugby final that forms the setting for the book. How, rugby, for long associated with brutish white arrogance, was turned to advantage by Mandela and how the Broederbond embraced humanity is vividly depicted.
2 people found this helpful
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on 16 June 2010
.....was the original title and on my list of books that I wanted to read long before Cint Eastwoods film adaptation 'Invictus' came out.

One Mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter but Mandela managed what few on this planet have done - risen to become a living legend beloved by former foes.

Whatever the simplifications and generalistions referred to in the earlier reviews this book does successfully convey the image of the man and the role the 1995 World Cup provided in laying the foundation for a country that if not united was not torn apart by strife as many predicted - and is still not 15 years later.

The book is interesting and often moving
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on 6 September 2011
The excellent research and literary craft in this book singles it out straight away as the work of a journalist.

The book begins with a compelling insight into the mind and life of Nelson Mandela and builds to the climax of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, which was the catalyst for uniting a disjointed country slowly rebuilding its image post-Apartheid.

The political context may make this a difficult read for those who may think this a pure sports book, but the way that other key characters are woven in and out of the story keeps the interest and the thorough research gives the whole a complete credibility. The author carefully builds the emotion into the story right to the end, which keeps the reader fully engaged.
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on 18 April 2014
This book !!! Is a book of books. I've never read a book that was so intense and passionate in descriptions as regards the emotions that not only a rugby team but the total transformation of a divided nation to unite thru the power and passion of one game. Of how millions of black South Africans could dare to begin to follow and cheer on a team that only a short while ago actually to them, represented a minority people who treated them as sub human .
One of the most real passionate books I've ever read.
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on 3 June 2015
This is a highly recommended piece of writing, not just for its celebration of a great sporting moment and the great men - or man - Mandela, behind it, but as a lesson to all of us to bring out the best in ourselves and others. A history lesson too. Many countries in the world could and should learn from the example of South Africa and its path to freedom. Let us hope it can maintain that spirit.
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on 5 December 2014
As a rugby supporter I bought this book hoping to learn a bit more about the Springboks' World Cup victory over NZ. The book delivered so much more. I would recommend this book to everyone. No matter your interests you'll love this story!!!.
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on 21 December 2016
Good book, and good seller
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on 20 December 2015
Moving, very well researched and written. One of my favourite stories ever. Thank you all and thank you John Carlin. Inspirational.
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on 30 September 2016
An outstanding account of a remarkable period of history. Rugby as game, totem and metaphor. Written with passion and pace and written to be read. Great on Rugby, Great on Mandela and a great study of clear and generous leadership. A must read book..
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