A powerful, intimate and ultimately heartbreaking account ... Painstaking detail ... Many of the details in Steinberg’s masterful account have long been public knowledge thanks to court cases, newspaper articles and previous books. But his supreme contribution is in his ability to portray clearly and critically Nelson Mandela’s flaws and Winnie Mandela’s crimes, while expressing sympathy and understanding for both their courage and their pain.
Behind the cover of his book lies an intense, unsparing and at times almost unbearably intimate exploration of one of the world’s most famous, most mythical marriages ... This is a book to make one wince, and gasp, and turn the page – a book that slowly, remorselessly, tears the bandages off South Africa’s carefully constructed image of itself, and of a partnership that lies at the heart of this country’s 'miraculous' transformation from racialized tyranny to democracy. Above all this is a book about rage ... Unflinching to the point of intrusiveness ... Steinberg admits that much of his freshest material – the most furious exchanges between the couple – comes from scribbled records taken by apartheid prison officials, then stolen and hidden for decades
A beautiful and immensely sad book. The sheer amount of pain they each suffered – and inflicted on each other – is unimaginable ... More than a joint biography, as good as it is at that; it’s a deft and operatic interweaving of two outsized characters. In Steinberg’s telling, the pair are like twin planets that exert immense gravitational forces on each other ... Steinberg quotes extensively from conversations between them when she was visiting Mandela in prison. The quotes are powerful, intimate, disturbing. That troubling feeling comes from the fact that they are taken verbatim from transcripts prison guards secretly made of Mandela’s conversations.
Steinberg...brings a new depth to Nelson’s relationship with Winnie. Steinberg is aided in this task by a collection of some 15,000 pages of transcripts and notes that were only recently made available to scholars.
With Nelson’s travails at Robben Island more well-known, Steinberg gives Winnie her due as an implacable freedom fighter ... Steinberg has created a landmark biography of two unforgettable civil rights heroes.
The tangled web of passion, political intrigue and betrayal revealed in this story is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. There are times when you can feel Steinberg struggling to be balanced about his subjects. It is difficult to be critical of Nelson because he is so revered. As for Winnie, by the end of their marriage she had become a monstrous figure who treated her elderly husband with cruelty and contempt ... An empathetic portrait.
Steinberg’s book is subtitled Portrait of a Marriage. This is both entirely accurate as well as excessively modest. Their relationship as it evolved down the decades is depicted with sensitivity and authority, but always against the backdrop of the political and social history of the time. The characters of Nelson and Winnie come vividly alive, their struggles, sacrifices, anxieties and angularities narrated in depth and detail. However, Steinberg also presents evocative portraits of many other individuals ... Steinberg’s book is compellingly readable from the first page to the last, yet the sections which stand out most are those which deal with the twenty-seven years of Mandela’s incarceration ... Rigorously researched and beautifully written, Jonny Steinberg’s Winnie and Nelson is acutely insightful at both the personal and political levels. It is a brilliantly constructed portrait of a marriage, of a people, of a country, of a time.
Jonny Steinberg’s gripping portrait of Africa’s most famous romantic couple may well dispel the last scraps of that fuzzy complacency ... The most nuanced of storytellers, Steinberg has always had an extraordinary ability to get inside his protagonists’ heads, and does so here while scrupulously detailing the brutalising pressures to which the two were relentlessly subjected, experiences that left them warped and hardened. But the final portrait is nonetheless devastating, and some readers will put down the book feeling they might have preferred not to know.
There are so many heart-rending revelations about the tortured relationship, extramarital affairs and personal sacrifices of Nelson and Winnie Mandela in this outstanding biography of South Africa’s anti-apartheid power couple that if asked to list the most poignant half-dozen, it would be hard to know where to start ... But this book is not about debunking the Mandela myth. Rather, it rounds it out by humanizing Nelson as never before via the messiness of his private life, even as he gave his all for the cause.
In this eloquent biography, Steinberg... captures the mythic quality of these two leaders, their great love story and tragic estrangement, and the hubris and human frailty beneath the personas ... The author is careful not to vilify her while deifying him; rather, he presents a nuanced, well-contextualized look at their relationship within its time.