Good Morning, Mr Mandela – Zelda la Grange

Once again I write a review some days after putting the book down and I’m starting to think that it is a worthwhile exercise because it allows the book to truly sink in and continue to live with me, long after turning the last page. Come, let me share with you the experience of reading such an epic book.

So I came to this book via my awesome neighbour (we love swapping books every so often!) and I’m glad that she thought of me because I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book since its release in 2014.

Good Morning, Mr Mandela, the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life and everything she once believed in transformed by the greatest man of her time.

Zelda la Grange grew up in South Africa as a white Afrikaner who supported the rules of segregation. Yet a few years after the end of Apartheid she would become the trusted assistant to Nelson Mandela. Now she shares his lasting and inspiring gifts with the world.

 

That’s the precis that you’ll get on the Penguin site. But I want to start off by saying that I was surprisingly underwhelmed in the first section of the book – I guess I’d built my mind up to expect fireworks and amazingness from the get-go but it wasn’t to be. It was a slow recap of Zelda’s life growing up and how she found herself in Madiba’s gravitational pull in the first place.

But all the underwhelmingness of this section became more and more necessary as I read on because it helps the reader understand Zelda’s motivations and background which, granted, play a pivotal role in one’s future years.

It was so exciting reading about Zelda’s transformation, her journey, her growing and deepening connection to Khulu, as she affectionately called him. And I love his name for her too which was ‘Zeldina’! Read the part in the book about their trip to Russia and the name will make sense!

As a South African who has not yet read Long Walk to Freedom, this book is definitely instrumental in nudging me towards it because I realised just how privileged I am reading Good Morning, Mr Mandela and seeing all the warm, charming and funny sides to Tata that the general public was never quite privy to – all we ever saw was Mandela reading speeches, shaking hands with heads of state and addressing serious matters. We never got to read about him having a laugh, unwinding, and sadly, just how difficult things got in the end for him healthwise.

And I admire and appreciate that there are obviously some facts that Zelda had to leave out of the book out of respect for the man and out of respect for their once in a lifetime relationship. I was broken at the end of the book to hear how she was treated, especially at his funeral.

I’m happy I picked it up though because essentially a book of this nature is a piece of history in the continuum of our country. Pick it up too and be moved by the highs and lows that is Miss la Grange’s journey with the most famous man in the world. The man we knew as Tata.

-Babongile Z

 

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