cover image Nelson Mandela: A Biography

Nelson Mandela: A Biography

Martin Meredith / Author Thomas Dunne Books $29.95 (608p) ISBN

Meredith (In the Name of Apartheid) can't match the inimitable voice of Mandela's 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. But this book is a welcome complement to that work, as the author capably synthesizes a broad range of written sources and interviews, providing a more judicious--if less heartfelt--portrait of Mandela's rich life. All the events--trials, protests, prison negotiations--are here. But Meredith's broader mission allows him to provide more perspective and background on Mandela's comrades in the African National Congress (ANC). He also gives a greater glimpse of the personal Mandela--a harsh disciplinarian toward his children who has nevertheless been indulgent toward his second wife, Winnie, whose imperiousness and suspected criminal behavior he refused to criticize after his release from prison in 1990. Moreover, on the weakest area in Mandela's own book (the time since his release from prison), Meredith has the advantage. He can portray President Mandela's mix of stately wisdom, indecisiveness, indulgence toward comrades and stirring symbolic leadership. This biography may prove to be less interpretive than future ones, but Meredith rightly praises Mandela for laying the foundations for a new society in a land riven by poverty. Photos. (Feb.)