The critics on Young Mandela

    US reviews

    New York Times – J. M. Ledgard

    Nelson Mandela was circumcised as a 16-year-old boy alongside a flowing river in the Eastern Cape. The ceremony was similar to those of other Bantu peoples. An elder moved through the line making ring-like cuts, and foreskins fell away. The boys could not so much as blink; it was a rite of passage that took you […]

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    Booklist (journal of the American Library Association) – Hazel Rochman

    Neither saint nor icon, South Africa’s world-famous leader is still very much a hero in this close-up dramatic biography, both personal and political, about his activist years in the underground before he was sentenced to life in prison.

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    The Associated Press – Carl Hartman

    Nearly half a century ago, a South African judge pronounced a life sentence against Nelson Mandela for planning guerrilla war against the racist state. Mandela had expected hanging and, with his co-defendants, decided in advance not to appeal.

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    The New Republic – Joshua Hammer

    Midway through David James Smith’s absorbing account of the pre-Robben Island life of Nelson Mandela, the author breaks from his narrative to recount a scene in a hospital room in Johannesburg. In December 2004, Makgatho, Mandela’s estranged son from his first marriage, was dying of AIDS following years of alcoholism and aimlessness.

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    Boston Globe – Kate Tuttle

    Anyone who was in college in the 1980s remembers the songs, posters, and T-shirts urging divestment from South Africa and freedom for its most celebrated political prisoner, Nelson Mandela. Those who watched his inauguration in 1994 as the first democratically elected president in his country’s history will recall the feeling of triumphant joy.

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    Publishers Weekly

    Longtime journalist Smith (One Morning in Sarajevo) digs into newly discovered government documents and firsthand interviews (though none with the supportive but ailing Nelson Mandela himself) in humanizing the iconic leader.

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    A biography shepherded by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and written by an English journalist attains distance from and clarity on the life of the near-sainted South African leader.

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    UK reviews

    Financial Times – Alec Russell

    The phenomenon that is the Nelson Mandela publishing industry had an unpromising start. When the great man was encouraged by comrades to write his memoirs during his long nights imprisoned on Robben Island, they had to beg him to include any details about his personal life.

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    The Spectator – Andro Linklater

    In June 1964, when Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for acts of sabotage against the apartheid government of South Africa, he was, as photographs reveal, a burly, blackhaired man, with a handsome, pugnacious grin. By the time he was released in 1990, his hair was grey and his features gaunt.

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    The Times – Ian Finlayson

    ‘Respectfully revisionist”

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    The Daily Telegraph – Gillian Slovo

    “Young Mandela provides its own fascination, not least because of the man himself and his world, which the author sometimes convincingly evokes.”

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    The Observer – Justin Cartwright

    “This book is valuable and fascinating, in the new detail it brings to the account of Mandela’s life”

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    The Mail On Sunday – Martin Meredith

    “The clues to Mandela’s deep conviction about the need for a multi-racial society lie in this period”

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    The Guardian – Mark Gevisser

    “this is a long-overdue exploration of the making of the Mandela myth; one that refreshes a somewhat stale and overcrowded field”

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    Daily Mail – Peter Lewis

    “This is in no sense of a hatchet job. But the consequences of Mandela’s life of struggle costs not just him, but everyone close to him dear”

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    The Sunday Times – Stephen Robinson

    “Smith succeeds in bringing him to life, wading in where other biographers have feared to tread to provide much new information and genuine insight.”

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    Time Out – Chris Waywell

    “Smith is a sympathetic guide through these ambiguities, gently chiding when accounts differ, seeking neither to bury Mandela nor to praise him”

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    South African reviews

    The Sowetan – Sam Ditshego

    Honest look at the real Madiba by Sam Ditshego. Young Mandela is a breath of fresh air because unlike the other books about him, this one does not sing panegyrics of the man and shows that he is not a saint, but human and therefore fallible.

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    City Press – Looking Behind The Iconic Grandeur

    To sum up his life after the failure of his first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase and before his marriage to Winnie Madikizela, Nelson Mandela said: “Then I lived a thoroughly immoral life.” He was talking to Mac Maharaj back on Robben Island. Maharaj was complaining about Madiba’s overguarded self representation in his memoir that […]

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    Pretoria News Weekend – Author takes brave dip into darker side of Mandela world

    The Sunday newspapers played it hard and straight. Nelson Mandela’s son Makgatho had died of Aids, and a young grandchild and a young lover were allegedly enmeshed in the scandal. Despite our growing national ethos not to sensationalise Aids, that was how the story was drawn – as a scandal.

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    The Daily Dispatch – The Man Behind The Madiba Icon

    TWO foreigners, two books on Nelson Mandela, two entirely different approaches.

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    Australian reviews

    Australian Women’s Weekly

    Much has been written about Nelson Mandela, but for the first time this biography offers a tangible perspective on the real man behind the political struggle.

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    The Daily Telegraph

    Much has been written about Nelson Mandela’s rise from freedom-fighting prisoner to the first black president of liberated South Africa. But little has been dedicated to his formative years.

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    Latest News

    • The Sleep Of Reason – The James Bulger Case by David James Smith:
      Faber Finds edition with new preface, available September 15th, 2011.

    • Young Mandela the movie – in development.

      From The Guardian
      Read the article

      In the Diary column of The Independent, April 13th, 2011

      More on my previously unsubstantiated claim that the writer-director Peter Kosminsky, creator of The Promise, is working on a drama about Nelson Mandela. I’ve now learnt that the project is a feature film, in development with Film 4, about the young Mandela. Kosminsky is currently at work on the script and, given the complaints about the anti-Jewish bias of The Promise, it is unlikely to be a standard bland portrait of the former South African president.

    Latest Review

      New York Times – J. M. Ledgard
    • Nelson Mandela was circumcised as a 16-year-old boy alongside a flowing river in the Eastern Cape. The ceremony was similar to those of other Bantu peoples. An elder moved through the line making ring-like cuts, and foreskins fell away. The boys could not so much as blink; it was a rite of passage that took you beyond pain. read full review

    See David James Smith…

    Jon Venables: What Went Wrong
    BBC 1, 10.35
    Thursday, April 21st, 2011