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What is it About?

From the publisher, “In this thrilling graphic novel, Nelson Mandela’s fight against racism is about to spiral into an all-out race war. Unless he can win over his archenemy, the white supremacist General Viljoen, the democratic struggle for equality and justice in South Africa will end in “the peace of graveyards.”

“A riveting read.”–Morgan Freeman
“Fascinating.”–Library Journal, starred review

As the first post-apartheid elections approach in 1994, with South African blacks poised to take power, the nation’s whites fear reprisal. White nationalist militias claiming 50,000 well-armed former soldiers stand ready to fight to the death to defend their cause. They need someone who can lead and unite them. That man is General Constand Viljoen, former chief of apartheid South Africa’s military.

Mandela knows that he can’t avert a bloodbath on his own. He will have to count on his archenemy. Throughout those historic months, the two men meet in secret. Can they trust each other? Can they keep their followers and radical fringe elements from acts of violence? The mettle of these two men will determine the future of a nation.

The drama of this contest and the history that pivoted on it comes vividly to life in visual form. Veteran British journalist John Carlin teams up with Catalan artist Oriol Malet to create a historically and artistically rich graphic novel with obvious relevance to today’s polarized politics.”


“We must strive to find a political solution that reconciled White fears with black aspirations.” 

Mandela and the General is a powerful book full of historical moments that changed the fate of a nation. The story is not frivolous, and watching power and change unfold page to page is a heady thing. Also, the story is an accessible and well-done distillation of Mandela’s and General Viljoen’s characters. It could be a heavy thing due to the gravitas and importance of the content, but it effortlessly flows from page to page.

Mandela and the General is the correct book to read for an American right now. I think it mirrors some of the struggles currently facing the US. Two opposing ideologies, democrat and republican, bickering and waring with each other. No, I know that it is not the same thing as apartheid, but I felt the echoes of it reading this book. The reader can learn so much from such an accessible historical story.

Nothing can stop the Afrikaner from obtaining his freedom! 

Mandela and the General is told from the General’s point of view. The violence is never sugar-coated nor is it excused, and even though he was on the wrong side of history, it showed how he was trying to do what he thought best for his people. The good and the bad of it are drawn out for the reader to see. I appreciate this as a lover of history. There are two sides to everything, showing the thought process behind the General’s actions keep him from becoming a one-dimensional character.

It is graphically a beautiful book. Ink and watercolor are such lovely mediums to group together. They add softness and a crispness to panels at the same time. Also, the monochromatic color scheme of the book adds a certain level of gravitas to the story and it is very well done.

Graphic novels are an excellent way to tell history. Not only does the reader get the subtle nuances of the written word, but they also get a visual representation. Mandela and the General does both very well. It is engaging without being over-cramped with facts. Beautifully inked and a definite recommend.


Check Out Some of Our Other Review

Review -A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

Graphic Novel Review of – The Arrival by Shaun Tan


  • Paul's Picks says:

    Immediately requesting from my library! Thanks for the review> Excellent rundown!

  • Beth Tabler says:

    Awesome! I think you will like it. It is so well done.

  • livalind says:

    And here I thought graphic novels was all about cowboys, superheroes and funny animals…
    I really need to look into this genre because I think you have a point – they could very well be an awesome way to talk history – a subject that unfortunately we tend to forget just to make the same mistakes all over again.
    And I love history, but find it hard to remember what I read because my mind needs a visual input.
    Think I’ll set myself up for a date with the library and see what they have.
    On another note: I definitly think you are right about the echoing although what takes place in the US can not be compared to apartheid. However, the newsstream I personally encounter here in Denmark deals a lot with both the opposites in your political scene but – sadly – also racism. So while we acknowledge that the situations are quite different, there will definitly be some similar point where – hopefully – some people can learn from this book. Maybe we all could learn a thing or two.
    Loved this review. I only hope they have it in a Danish library.
    Have a great day❤️

    • Beth Tabler says:

      Hi Linda, Thank you as always for your comments. You are so eloquent in your writing.
      There is definitely not an apples to apples comparison between South African apartheid and the unrest in the US, but while I read the book, I had many “A-Ha” moments. I could see comparisons between the mentality of the General from the story and some of the US’s more Republican “patriots.” I hope that people go out and read books like this. It makes history accessible. If your library doesn’t have a copy of this, I’ve read many other graphic novels in this part of the genre that I could recommend. Have you read Maus? Maus might be one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking books I have ever read.

      • livalind says:

        No I haven’t read Maus… if you’ve reviewed it, feel free to drop the link. Although I gotta be careful with heartbreaking stuff – getting rather emotional in my older days🙈😊

  • Beth Tabler says:

    I haven’t attempted it. It would be too much for me to review. The story is too big for me to shrink it down, although I have been thinking about it for ages. I might attempt it sometime this year. lol I know what you mean. I steer clear of books that will make me cry. I do not want to sob hysterically at a book.

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