A Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award—Fiction For fans of The Kite Runner and A Brief History of Seven Killings, a page-turning literary and political thriller set in apartheid Johannesburg
As the 1980s draw to a close, South Africa is a maelstrom of political violence, the apartheid regime in its death throes. Young Martin Helger is a misfit at an elite private boys’ school in Johannesburg, with a father who is a scrap dealer and a brother who is a mysterious legend. When a beautiful and manipulative American activist arrives at the family home, Martin soon finds himself wrenched out of his isolated bubble and thrust into the heart of the struggle. At the same time, secrets from the past begin to emerge, tearing at the Helgers, a second-generation Jewish family, even as the larger forces of history and politics tear apart the country.The Mandela Plot is at once a high-stakes literary thriller and a moving coming-of-age tale that charts the journey of a young man trying to find his place in a country that has lost its way.
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
KENNETH BONERT’s first novel, The Lion Seeker, won the National Jewish Book Award, the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and the Canadian Jewish Book Award, and was a finalist for Amazon Canada’s First Novel Award. Bonert was born in South Africa.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Mandela Plot based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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Life is well regulated in South Africa at the end of the 1980s. Apartheid rules and black and white only meet when the former serves or received commands from the later. Thing are only slightly different in the Jewish Helger household in Johannesburg; having survived the Holocaust, the parents developed a more humane attitude than most of their white fellows. Yet, their routines change with the arrival of an American exchange teacher. Annie Goldberg has come to teach at a primary school in one of the townships – a place none of the Helger family would ever go to. 16-year-old Martin is fascinated by the pretty and radical woman. Her political opinion drastically differs from his parents’ point of view and soon he finds himself in the middle of the struggles to fight for freedom for the oppressed peoples’ hero Nelson Mandela. The beginning of the novel is immediately captivating. Just as Martin is fascinated by this strange American, the reader also falls for her charisma. She is a freedom fighter who can easily convince her audience with her statements on the current political situation in a way that you just have to agree – knowing that things might be a lot more complicated. The double complex of having a Jewish survivor family who went through oppression by the Nazi regime gives the novel an even more complicated background. I especially appreciated the long debates between the Helgers and Goldberg, they gave a precise picture of South Africa of that time and the contradicting positions were thus well established. However, even though this was very interesting, it did not add to the suspense. Since the novel is promoted as “literary thriller”, I’d have expected a bit more of that. At some point of the story, I got a bit lost. Even though I liked the protagonist Martin and his development is well motivated and largely plausible, the plot was a bit unsatisfactory. At the end, I even had the impression that there was a certain lack of idea of how to finish it at all, the solution chosen did everything but convince me. All in all, I had the impression that the novel wanted to be too much: a thriller, historical fiction, coming-of-age and also the specific aspects of the surviving Jew – it obviously cannot serve all expectations aroused and therefore to conclude, it is only partly recommendable.