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A vibrant, propulsive literary thriller that charts the high-stakes journey of a young man trying to find his place in a country that has lost its way​ As the 1980s draw to a close, South Africa is a maelstrom of political violence with the apartheid regime in its death throes. Young Martin Helger is the struggling odd duck at an elite private boys school in Johannesburg, w A vibrant, propulsive literary thriller that charts the high-stakes journey of a young man trying to find his place in a country that has lost its way​ As the 1980s draw to a close, South Africa is a maelstrom of political violence with the apartheid regime in its death throes. Young Martin Helger is the struggling odd duck at an elite private boys school in Johannesburg, with his father a rough-handed scrap dealer and his brother a mysterious legend. When a beautiful and manipulative American arrives at the family home, Martin soon finds himself wrenched out of his isolated bubble and thrust into the raw heart of the struggle. At the same time, secrets from the past begin to emerge and old sins long buried return in terrifying new ways, tearing at the Helgers, a second-generation Jewish family, even as the larger forces of history and politics tear apart the country as a whole. Mercy is in short supply and ultimately Martin must rely on alternative strengths to protect himself and fight for a better future. From the acclaimed author of the National Jewish Book Award–winning debut novel The Lion Seeker, The Mandela Plot is at once a riveting literary thriller, a moving coming of age tale, and an unforgettable journey through a world that entertains and terrifies in equal measure, and holds profound resonance for the present moment.


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A vibrant, propulsive literary thriller that charts the high-stakes journey of a young man trying to find his place in a country that has lost its way​ As the 1980s draw to a close, South Africa is a maelstrom of political violence with the apartheid regime in its death throes. Young Martin Helger is the struggling odd duck at an elite private boys school in Johannesburg, w A vibrant, propulsive literary thriller that charts the high-stakes journey of a young man trying to find his place in a country that has lost its way​ As the 1980s draw to a close, South Africa is a maelstrom of political violence with the apartheid regime in its death throes. Young Martin Helger is the struggling odd duck at an elite private boys school in Johannesburg, with his father a rough-handed scrap dealer and his brother a mysterious legend. When a beautiful and manipulative American arrives at the family home, Martin soon finds himself wrenched out of his isolated bubble and thrust into the raw heart of the struggle. At the same time, secrets from the past begin to emerge and old sins long buried return in terrifying new ways, tearing at the Helgers, a second-generation Jewish family, even as the larger forces of history and politics tear apart the country as a whole. Mercy is in short supply and ultimately Martin must rely on alternative strengths to protect himself and fight for a better future. From the acclaimed author of the National Jewish Book Award–winning debut novel The Lion Seeker, The Mandela Plot is at once a riveting literary thriller, a moving coming of age tale, and an unforgettable journey through a world that entertains and terrifies in equal measure, and holds profound resonance for the present moment.

30 review for The Mandela Plot

  1. 4 out of 5

    Toni Osborne

    This political thriller and fiction tale take place in and around Johannesburg, South Africa during apartheid and focuses on the supporters of the cause. The story spans from the uprising up to the release of Nelson Mandela and sometime after. The main players are the Helgers, a second generation Jewish family, young Martin is the key player in this heartbreaking and tragic account. In the 1980’s, the regime is on the verge of collapse and the population suffers a maelstrom of violence during tha This political thriller and fiction tale take place in and around Johannesburg, South Africa during apartheid and focuses on the supporters of the cause. The story spans from the uprising up to the release of Nelson Mandela and sometime after. The main players are the Helgers, a second generation Jewish family, young Martin is the key player in this heartbreaking and tragic account. In the 1980’s, the regime is on the verge of collapse and the population suffers a maelstrom of violence during that horrifying time. Although fictional the author’s words have made this story sound so real with his incredible passages. When Martin is thrust in the heart of the struggle by a manipulative American and comes out of his bubble to help the cause we see a tad of what may have occurred during that time. Mercy is in short supply and no one is safe…..black, white, Afrikaans, Europeans, foreign nationals, immigrants ….. This novel, a moving coming-of- age tale honestly explored the bold themes of identity as well as terrorism and revolution and is said through an unforgettable journey. The characters are well developed and believable some are even quite sympathetic and others so evil it is hard to believe their actions. This is a very hard book to get into. The narration and dialogue are peppered with some South African dialects, some slang, some Yiddish a challenging mix if not familiar with the languages. Although the author has given us a glossary at the end of the books I found it was very distracting and I needed to pause too often and reread the sentences in order to understand the meaning. The long paragraph sometime over a page long and its stretched narrative also made reading a daunting task at times. ….Of course what I think doesn’t remove the feeling of authenticity this story projects. I may not have enjoyed this novel at its fullest nevertheless I must say “The Mandela Plot” is a good read to be enjoyed by historical buff…. I received this ARC from Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalleys for my thoughts

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    The Mandela Plot is a coming of age story set in South Africa at the end of Apartheid. It follows a young Jewish boy as he enters into high school. Martin Helger lives in the shadow of his older brother Marcus, an all-star rugby player, boxer and soldier. He wants to make a name for himself but has difficulty finding his niche. Life seems to turn around when a pretty American coed comes to live with his family and wide eyed Martin finds himself thrust in a web of political intrigue. I am partly e The Mandela Plot is a coming of age story set in South Africa at the end of Apartheid. It follows a young Jewish boy as he enters into high school. Martin Helger lives in the shadow of his older brother Marcus, an all-star rugby player, boxer and soldier. He wants to make a name for himself but has difficulty finding his niche. Life seems to turn around when a pretty American coed comes to live with his family and wide eyed Martin finds himself thrust in a web of political intrigue. I am partly embarrassed to admit that I almost didn't finish this book. When I first read the synopsis I thought it would be focused more on the ANC and the Freedom Fighters who fought to release Mandela and put an end to the regime of Apartheid. So I found it slow going at first until I became invested in the characters. I also had trouble with the Jewish/Afrikaans/South African colloquialisms. It wasn't until after I got a hold of the print copy with easy access to the glossary that I could get past this. Overall, I think I learned a lot from this book. When one is considering history we tend to generalize events from two perspectives: good vs. evil, the victor and the aggrieved. Seldom do we consider the heinous acts carried out by both sides during war, nor do we take time to reflect on the many different people that form a nation and the after effects of war. The Mandela Plot is Kenneth Bonert's second book. His debut, The Lion Seeker, features Martin's oldest brother Marcus.

  3. 5 out of 5

    miss.mesmerized mesmerized

    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 o 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    An epic story of a Jewish teenager in South Africa during Apartheid and his run ins with a crooked cop. Martin Helter is every kid until a young American teacher gets him involved in a plot to aid in releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. The plot and the story evolves in a fast and detailed pace that comes together in the end. Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Brody

    really wanted to like this book but, for whatever reason, it just didn't click with me. My ancestors also came from Lithuania and some of my husband's family even settled in South Africa like the Helgers. The time is the 1980's and Martin Helger, the novel's protagonist, starts off as an outsider. He has no friends outside of hebrew school, and it seems that even these friends don't like him too much. He comes from a dysfunctional family but, then again, who doesn't. His older brother Marcus has really wanted to like this book but, for whatever reason, it just didn't click with me. My ancestors also came from Lithuania and some of my husband's family even settled in South Africa like the Helgers. The time is the 1980's and Martin Helger, the novel's protagonist, starts off as an outsider. He has no friends outside of hebrew school, and it seems that even these friends don't like him too much. He comes from a dysfunctional family but, then again, who doesn't. His older brother Marcus has joined the South African military and with apartheid being the country's major issue, it is likely that Marcus is trying to keep order in the townships or perhaps even shooting blacks. When Anna, a New Yorker, arrives to live in the Helger household, Martin snoops around in her room and finds more than he bargained for. Along with her underwear and personal items, he finds very important and radical political information. It appears that Anna is working with the ANC, a rebel group of blacks who oppose apartheid and want equal rights. For a country like South Africa, this is unheard of and a very dangerous pastime to be involved with. If you are interested in reading about this era in South Africa, I highly recommend Nadine Gordimer or J. Coetzee's novels. I found them to be more character driven and more psychologically astute than The Mandela Plot.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Okay, here is book review option one. Kenneth Bonert's second novel,"The Mandela Plot", is simply brilliant. A sequel of sorts to his first novel, "The Lion Seeker", the sweep of Bonert's writing in both books is amazing. Set in South Africa from 1920's to 2006, Bonert's characters and plots are brilliantly drawn and thought out. And review option two? Bonert's writing is boring and difficult to understand, what with the text full of Yiddish-isms, and Africaan and black African expressions. Ther Okay, here is book review option one. Kenneth Bonert's second novel,"The Mandela Plot", is simply brilliant. A sequel of sorts to his first novel, "The Lion Seeker", the sweep of Bonert's writing in both books is amazing. Set in South Africa from 1920's to 2006, Bonert's characters and plots are brilliantly drawn and thought out. And review option two? Bonert's writing is boring and difficult to understand, what with the text full of Yiddish-isms, and Africaan and black African expressions. There's little punctuation and the characters are weird and the plot - what plot? - is all over the place. So, as a reader and reviewer, which "option" will I choose? Number one, of course... When I read and reviewed "The Lion Seeker" in 2013, I gave the book five stars but said that I could also see it correctly rated at one star. It was the kind of novel that very few readers would/could appreciate. What had attracted me to the book was the story of the Lithuanian Jews who had fled the anti-Semitism in the early 1900's and had emigrated to South Africa. Thousands of Litvacs found safety and prosperity in their new country, even as they tackled the racial laws in the country. (Jews were considered "white", but still not British or Afrikaner. They occupied their own societal level.) The story in "The Lion Seeker" was about the Helger family, and their attempts to fit into and profit from South African society in the first few decades of the 1900's. The main character in that book was Isaac Helger and his younger son, Martin, is the main character in Bonert's second book. By the 1980's, Isaac Helger and his wife have two sons, Marcus and Martin, and the family has a nice house/compound in Johannesburg. The boys are both students at an elite Jewish high school. Marcus Helger has made himself into a legend at the school due to his sports feats, while Martin, a few years younger, tries to get along at school. But the 1980's years of intense anti-Apartheid activity and Martin gets himself involved with an American Jewish young woman boarding at his house who is part of the anti-Apartheid underground. Martin is variously at odds with his parents as well as the teachers and students at his school. Martin helps out at the family junkyard business when not in school or smuggling anti-Apartheid tapes to the townships. There's a lot of violence in Bonert's book but most of it - unfortunately - is organic to the plot. Bonert's book is long - about 450 pages - but for the right reader, it flows beautifully. (Bonert includes a glossary of terms in the back of the book.) For the wrong reader, it's a hodge-podge that you'll quit after 50 pages or so. Are you the "right" reader for "The Mandela Plot"? Well, make sure you read all the reviews of the book you can, before buying it. Or, if you're on a Kindle, download the first few chapters. But do at least take a look at Kenneth Bonert's writing. I think you'll be glad you did. (And for those readers interested in my review of "The Lion Seeker", here is a link. https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re...)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ida

    I loved this book but not everyone will... if you find yourself hooked after the first 50 or so pages, stick with it... If not, put it down and walk away...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    If you're under age 40 or so, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1990s probably seems like ancient history. But to those of us who lived through those times and followed the news with interest, the South African story loomed large. Nelson Mandela was, simply, the most famous person in the world in the 1980s and 90s, and almost certainly the most widely admired. His release from prison after 27 years in February 1990 was witnessed on television by a global audience If you're under age 40 or so, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1990s probably seems like ancient history. But to those of us who lived through those times and followed the news with interest, the South African story loomed large. Nelson Mandela was, simply, the most famous person in the world in the 1980s and 90s, and almost certainly the most widely admired. His release from prison after 27 years in February 1990 was witnessed on television by a global audience comparable to that of the World Cup Finals. Mandela's election as South Africa's first Black president was celebrated around the world. Kenneth Bonert's captivating thriller, The Mandela Plot, is grounded in the years of the late 1980s, shortly before South Africa's State President F. W. de Klerk invited Nelson Mandela to tea in 1989, beginning the long effort to dismantle the apartheid regime. The action comes to a head many years later, long after Mandela's five years of service as de Klerk's successor ended in 1999. Although the book is a little slow on the uptake, the suspense builds steadily, and the closing chapters are shattering. A Jewish high school boy named Martin Helger is the protagonist of this deeply engaging story. Martin's father, Isaac, is a rough-hewn Lithuanian immigrant who owns and operates an automobile scrap yard. His older brother, Marcus, is an outstanding athlete who "did the unthinkable—maybe the unforgivable—and joined the army." Both sons attend an elite Jewish boys' school, where Martin finds not long after Marcus has left that his brother can no longer protect him from the upper-class bullies who torment him. But real trouble starts when a young American Jewish woman named Annie Goldberg moves into the Helger home as a guest. We soon learn that Annie is not just an elementary-school teacher in one of the rough Black townships but a revolutionary activist who has come to assist Mandela's African National Congress. Martin inadvertently becomes caught up in Annie's work, and therein lies the tale.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Grant

    Overall, "The Mandela Plot" was respectable and pretty solid. I was able to connect with Martin Hegler and was rooting for him after the first 10-15 chapters, which are broken into pretty small bites for a 400+ page book. I related to him as a teen male trying to find his way in a rapidly changing South Africa still plagued by Apartheid. His relationship with Annie was a Rollercoaster even if not always that believable. Annie herself had her charm from time to time, but I overall felt like she w Overall, "The Mandela Plot" was respectable and pretty solid. I was able to connect with Martin Hegler and was rooting for him after the first 10-15 chapters, which are broken into pretty small bites for a 400+ page book. I related to him as a teen male trying to find his way in a rapidly changing South Africa still plagued by Apartheid. His relationship with Annie was a Rollercoaster even if not always that believable. Annie herself had her charm from time to time, but I overall felt like she was a caricature of what an American radical working with the ANC was: overly self righteous and naive. I feel like both her character and her relationship with Martin and the family could have used more development. Martin living in his brother's shadow was a major part of the book that made him vulnerable and flawed. I enjoyed the complications that came with Martin and his parents' relationship. There's a part in the book where we see Issac's manhood tested in front of Martin and it's very gripping. It was also interesting to see South Africa and Apartheid from a Jewish perspective. And the main antagonist, Oberholzer, was a complete douchey psychopathic tool...and he was one of the best villains I've read in a while. The story itself was at times a little flat in spaces, the backdrop didn't always work, and some characters seemed thrown in, but I can't say I disliked the book. Again, a pretty respectable political thriller. 3 out of 5 stars for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    What an incredible book. The twists and turns along the way had me second-guessing everything I thought I knew was going to happen, and I found myself genuinely shocked at the way the story turned out. This is unlike any story I've ever read before. At the heart of the story is the looming legend that is Marcus Helger, Martin's older brother. Marcus spends most of the novel as a larger-than-life character, almost a Zeus figure, whose name alone stops violent young men in their tracks and serves a What an incredible book. The twists and turns along the way had me second-guessing everything I thought I knew was going to happen, and I found myself genuinely shocked at the way the story turned out. This is unlike any story I've ever read before. At the heart of the story is the looming legend that is Marcus Helger, Martin's older brother. Marcus spends most of the novel as a larger-than-life character, almost a Zeus figure, whose name alone stops violent young men in their tracks and serves as a weapon in Martin's daily struggle to get through high school. These brothers are never together throughout a majority of the book, but their bond is the most important one in the tale. Martin spends his days wondering who he is; is he a younger version of his brother, or is he his own person? Is he a nationalist, or a revolutionary? When he finds himself wrapped up in the communist plot of the ANC, courtesy of the young teacher Annie Goldberg who seduces him for his help, he must decide if he is really helping an organization that would wipe out his own family, both as a young white man and as a Jew. I knew nothing about the Jewish community of South Africa or about apartheid in South Africa before I read this book, and I learned so much. This is a fascinating read for anyone looking to learn about what went on in the country during this abominable period, and for anyone looking to read a coming-of-age story that will keep you guessing until the very last page. Kenneth Bonert is a masterful storyteller.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jule

    This book is very important. Obviously, I knew about Apartheid in South Africa, but with all the things going on in the world, past and present, one cannot be an expert on everything. But this book really showed me and made me understand what it must have been like. The hatred on both sides, the depth of the segregation, the far-reaching propaganda, the constant threat of violence ... However, it was by no means a dry history book. There is plenty of character development, action, and even roman This book is very important. Obviously, I knew about Apartheid in South Africa, but with all the things going on in the world, past and present, one cannot be an expert on everything. But this book really showed me and made me understand what it must have been like. The hatred on both sides, the depth of the segregation, the far-reaching propaganda, the constant threat of violence ... However, it was by no means a dry history book. There is plenty of character development, action, and even romance. The main protagonist Martin finds himself in an interesting position in the politics of South Africa. He and his family are Jewish. So, they are white, yet also a shunned and ridiculed minority. As such, he stands between the lines in a way. That, plus I had never even considered a big Jewish community in South Africa of all places after World War II. The ever-present danger and violence mentioned above made reading this story very intense. I also enjoyed how the big national politics sometimes mirrored and sometimes contradicted the personal and family level and people just trying to survive. In the end, even though I gave this book 5 stars, I was a little skeptical. Maybe the book should have stopped about 4/5th of the way through. That would have been fine. For the remaining chapters, "well, that escalated quickly!" is a nice description, and I am not sure how realistic it was. I did like that nothing was too convenient, yet everything was tied up nicely. One loose end for me was the backstory and motif of the villain, whose connection to and hatred for Martin's father I did not understand. Other than that, though, this is a brilliant and multifaceted novel about a very violent, highly political, and important part of South African history. ~ I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all opinions expressed above are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Fascinating coming of age novel that explores J-burg in the late 1980s. For those old enough to remember, this was a period of extreme upheaval and Martin is right in the center. The back and forth of the GSA against the anti-apartheid movement is brought home within his family. This is a challenging read and I do not recommend trying it on a kindle because of the use of various languages- for which Bonert helpfully provides a guide at the end of the book. I read along without it, doing my best Fascinating coming of age novel that explores J-burg in the late 1980s. For those old enough to remember, this was a period of extreme upheaval and Martin is right in the center. The back and forth of the GSA against the anti-apartheid movement is brought home within his family. This is a challenging read and I do not recommend trying it on a kindle because of the use of various languages- for which Bonert helpfully provides a guide at the end of the book. I read along without it, doing my best to understand and in some case googling. That's not a criticism because the mixture made it all the more realistic but it is something to note in advance. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Linda Rae

    I don't even know where to start with this review. This book was all over the place-- a sprawling family melodrama and coming of age story, a political screed, a revenge fantasy, an honest portrayal of South Africa. Take your pick, it's all mashed up in this book. And our protagonist, Martin ( is he just really kind of a psychopath??) Every relationship affects him in the most horrible and gut wrenching way possible --Annie, Isaac, Arlene, Pats, Marcus, Bokkie, Shaolin, kids from school, headmas I don't even know where to start with this review. This book was all over the place-- a sprawling family melodrama and coming of age story, a political screed, a revenge fantasy, an honest portrayal of South Africa. Take your pick, it's all mashed up in this book. And our protagonist, Martin ( is he just really kind of a psychopath??) Every relationship affects him in the most horrible and gut wrenching way possible --Annie, Isaac, Arlene, Pats, Marcus, Bokkie, Shaolin, kids from school, headmaster . Honestly the coincidences are really ridiculous. And then the whole Mandela plot is a ploy to bring all the loose ends together. I have to give the author kudos for attempting this but I am not recommending it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luella Lee

    I received a free ARC of this book from a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you Goodreads!!! I can't say that I read a lot of books like this. There were really multiple stories going on, along with the whole huge history of Apartheid. This author was new to me as well. It was quite a long read, a think it could have used a lot of editing through the beginning. The last 150 pages of the book were excellent - I just wish the whole book could have been that engaging. It was very suspenseful and I loved the I received a free ARC of this book from a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you Goodreads!!! I can't say that I read a lot of books like this. There were really multiple stories going on, along with the whole huge history of Apartheid. This author was new to me as well. It was quite a long read, a think it could have used a lot of editing through the beginning. The last 150 pages of the book were excellent - I just wish the whole book could have been that engaging. It was very suspenseful and I loved the finally ending and storyline - I don't want to give anything away. I do like the perspective from which is was told -from Jewish Lithuania immigrant, Isaac Helgar and the British mother and then from the points of view of Marcus and Martin.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a coming of age story for both the main character, Martin Helger and South Africa. Set in the 1980s, apartheid is still strong but there are strong currents of unrest. Martin is entering the Solomon High School for Jewish Boys. He is a loner with no real friends. When his mother offers to house Annie Goldberg, a black Jewish woman from America, Martin is drawn into the struggles when she takes him to a black township where she teaches. As he is confronted with the truth about South Afric This is a coming of age story for both the main character, Martin Helger and South Africa. Set in the 1980s, apartheid is still strong but there are strong currents of unrest. Martin is entering the Solomon High School for Jewish Boys. He is a loner with no real friends. When his mother offers to house Annie Goldberg, a black Jewish woman from America, Martin is drawn into the struggles when she takes him to a black township where she teaches. As he is confronted with the truth about South Africa, he also learns the truth about his father's past. Everything comes to a startling and dramatic conclusion. Beautifully written and fascinating.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Noelle Walsh

    To start off, I just want to say that this book is best read as a physical copy and not on an e-reader for the simple fact that, if you're not familiar with the languages used (there are multi lingual characters), you will need to flip back and forth from the story to the glossary provided at the back. That being said, this book is a good one. Taking place in South Africa during Apartheid and its fall, this story takes you into the South Africa as it was during that time period and into the coun To start off, I just want to say that this book is best read as a physical copy and not on an e-reader for the simple fact that, if you're not familiar with the languages used (there are multi lingual characters), you will need to flip back and forth from the story to the glossary provided at the back. That being said, this book is a good one. Taking place in South Africa during Apartheid and its fall, this story takes you into the South Africa as it was during that time period and into the country post-Apartheid. I'd recommend this book to people who won't have too much trouble keeping up with the plot and to anyone who was looking or a book like this. *won as a GoodReads Giveaway*

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Interesting book set in Apartheid era South Africa. A young Jewish boy meets up with a new boarder in his house, an American woman, who takes him outside of his white bubble into the Black townships and he's slowly, almost unwittingly, becomes involved with the ANC terrorist group. It takes place over several years as Martin, the boy, and then a young man, gets deeper and deeper, all the while being followed, scrutinized by an policeman with a dark history. Some of the South African slang makes Interesting book set in Apartheid era South Africa. A young Jewish boy meets up with a new boarder in his house, an American woman, who takes him outside of his white bubble into the Black townships and he's slowly, almost unwittingly, becomes involved with the ANC terrorist group. It takes place over several years as Martin, the boy, and then a young man, gets deeper and deeper, all the while being followed, scrutinized by an policeman with a dark history. Some of the South African slang makes this book a bit hard to follow (despite the glossary at the back), but all the same; it's an intriguing novel.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary C

    I absolutely LOVE that this book feels authentic, complete with words that are native to South Africa. However, as an E-Reader, it was next to impossible to keep continuity as I had to constantly go to the glossary and look up the words then go back to my place in the story. So I gave up. But I plan to read this in print when I can put a book mark in the glossary to flip back to it. So, for right now, it is a DNF just because I found it too difficult to keep in the story with the swiping back and I absolutely LOVE that this book feels authentic, complete with words that are native to South Africa. However, as an E-Reader, it was next to impossible to keep continuity as I had to constantly go to the glossary and look up the words then go back to my place in the story. So I gave up. But I plan to read this in print when I can put a book mark in the glossary to flip back to it. So, for right now, it is a DNF just because I found it too difficult to keep in the story with the swiping back and forth all the time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hulananni

    I read it and was impressed by the accurate (IMHO) portrayal of the races struggling during apartheid. I lived in South Africa from 1981-1985 and know how sadistic and cruel people of all colors living there could be. Do I recommend this book. Yes, if you understand the struggle that was taking place. If not, I don’t think you would enjoy it. There is a glossary of Afrikaans in the book that could be helpful if you want to read it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I gave up on this one. I'd be curious to hear from South African readers; I found the plot points completely implausible (as did my South African husband) and the narrative was jumpy and incoherent. I remember enjoying Bonert's first novel, but this was just a mashup.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jere Pilapil

    Boy howdy. These were good words. Very good, even. The good words outweighed the bad words, and there were definitely words I could have done without. But overall, I thought these were words worth reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Girl Well Read

    A special thank you to Edelweiss, NetGalley, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Set in 1980s South Africa, The Mandela Plot centres around Martin Helger—a student at an all-boys private school in Johannesburg that doesn't quite fit in unlike his brother who is a mysterious legend. Martin is bored with his mundane life until a beautiful American girl, Annie Goldberg, arrives. Martin finds himself no longer in his protective bubble and is immersed into the po A special thank you to Edelweiss, NetGalley, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Set in 1980s South Africa, The Mandela Plot centres around Martin Helger—a student at an all-boys private school in Johannesburg that doesn't quite fit in unlike his brother who is a mysterious legend. Martin is bored with his mundane life until a beautiful American girl, Annie Goldberg, arrives. Martin finds himself no longer in his protective bubble and is immersed into the political and societal struggles. Oh boy..where do I start? I had the honour of reviewing Bonert's first book The Lion Seeker and it was a stunning debut. But this sophomore effort coming of age tale just simply didn't resonate with me. Honestly, I can't put my finger on it—perhaps it was the dialogue? It was very hard for me to get into the book with several failed attempts and start overs. That being said, once I did get into the story, I did enjoy parts of it. The characters are complex, some are well-developed, and others, like Martin are underdeveloped. Bonert clearly has a gift; there are some beautiful passages, but the lengthy paragraphs are unnecessary bulk and the slang stunts the reader (of note: there is a glossary at the end of the book).

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lukas Evan

    Could've used more Mandela.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    I'm headed to the library to find his first book THE LION SEEKER.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    Exceptional.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erynn

    Great book!!!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Price

    Tough read both because of subject matter and style of writing (for me). Had to keep putting this down and coming back to it. Was interesting to see a different viewpoint of apartheid.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I really liked this book despite the difficult subject matter.

  29. 4 out of 5

    LeeAnne

    An excellent if difficult read. I especially enjoyed the various and conflicted views on apartheid and South Africa in the aftermath. Highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe Huennekens

    Starts good, but descends into ridiculousness

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