I never knew very much about Nelson Mandela; I mean, I never mixed him up with Morgan Freeman or anything, but my knowledge level was comparably dismal. Good Morning, Mr. Mandela brought me up to speed, although Zelda la Grange’s perspective is biased, to say the least. After working with Mandela for twenty years, la Grange addressed Mandela as “khulu,” or “grandpa.” Despite her simplistic and repetitive writing style, la Grange’s memoir is heartfelt and her affection for this man is clearly genuine.When Mandela became the president of South Africa, he chose to employ a culturally diverse staff, as the previous administration was purely white. Essentially, Mandela needed some white people, and Zelda la Grange was in the right place at the right time. She was hired as a secretary in the government offices, and she ultimately rose to become one of Mandela’s personal secretaries. Raised under Apartheid, la Grange grew up believing in white superiority and that the then-imprisoned Mandela was a “terrorist.” Her years with Mandela changed her views and led her to become his biggest cheerleader.
Good Morning, Mr. Mandela recounts la Grange’s years working in the South African government and the various places they traveled to and people that they met. While it is interesting to get an insider’s perspective, the book reads like a bunch of anecdotes crammed together without the use of transitional phrases. “We then went to the Holocaust museum…We had a meeting the next day with the President and Prime Minister…From Israel we went to Plaestine,” it just got old quick. I don’t doubt la Grange’s sincerity, and she remains very dedicated to Nelson Mandela – she just should have considered employing a ghostwriter.
*A special thanks to Viking for the advanced copy of Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange