During the Footsteps to Freedom tour that we took in Cape Town, I asked our guide ( who was very knowledgeable about South African history) for book recommendations on South Africa. The first book he rattled off was The Covenant by James Michener. This coupled with the same recommendation from my husband, I was sure I could not go wrong reading this voluminous, historical fiction novel spanning prehistoric times to the 1970’s focused on South Africa . Given the recommendations from great people coupled with our fondness for South Africa, I will try to be objective here, but a warning my judgement might be a little skewed. 🙂
Michener’s writing style makes learning South African history a pleasure even though the book is quite long- about 1250 pages. He weaves a fascinating story of multiple generations of families from diverse, ethnic backgrounds and includes beautiful descriptions of this gorgeous country- e.g. Karoo, the veld, etc. Some real characters that were influential in South African history are also included- e.g. Jan Smuts, Cecil Rhodes, Paul Kruger, Gandi, etc. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the midsection and the subplot were a little too lengthy and less interesting due in part to the superstitious elements which did not resonate with me. The book demonstrates the heinous consequences of people incorrectly interpreting religious books ( interesting given the parallels with present day). And the stories and examples used to describe how ludicrous the apartheid system was is well-done and poignant. This is a must read for anyone planning to visit and/ or wants to understand the complex and interesting history of South Africa including some of the drivers behind the reprehensible apartheid system (although the book is long and a little slow in the midsection).