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A Rainbow in the Night: The Tumultuous Birth of South Africa

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  487 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
In 1652, a small group of Dutch farmers landed on the southernmost tip of Africa. Sent by the powerful Dutch India Company, their mission was simply to grow vegetables and supply ships rounding the cape. The colonists, however, were convinced by their strict Calvinist faith that they were among God's "elect," chosen to rule over the continent. Their bloody, ferocious, and ...more
Audio CD, 1 page
Published November 1st 2009 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published January 1st 2008)
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Apratim Mukherjee
Jan 29, 2017 Apratim Mukherjee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically this is a history book where history of South Africa has been narrated in a very interesting way (from the Dutch conquest in 1652 to elections in 1994).Some points have been omitted like Namibia's independence and end of sporting boycott in1991(so I deducted one star).But all in all,Dominique Lapierre provides an interesting way to learn history.I think it is must read for those interested in history of apartheid.
Elliot Ratzman
This is an accessible history of South Africa written by a well-known French journalist. The history is more complex than I thought. I found myself sympathetic to the Dutch traders and farmers in the 17th and 18th centuries sought their fortune—and a quasi-religious calling—to settle what seemed to be a largely unpopulated region of southern Africa. After centuries of harrowing battles with Zulus, the British, other Dutchmen and natural disasters, these “Afrikaner” country bumpkins trek around t ...more
Feb 26, 2017 Ganesh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A poignant, very well written history of South Africa's birth and rebirth after apartheid's end. A must read, if only for refresh ourselves on history's lessons in a day and age when fascism & divisiveness are starting to read their ugly heads again...

It even had lessons on Dictatorship 101 ;) - "For individuals or groups who resisted these (apartheid) expulsions or contested their legality by appealing to the courts, he came up with the Black Prohibition of Interdicts Act, which prevented t
Nov 23, 2013 MinG rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how to explain this book in a word. To be honest, I didn't know what to feel when I was reading this book. I can't believe this really happened in our history. This just seemed so surreal to me and I didn't want to believe this. Moreover, there were people that wanted to change this world to become better. There was Nelson Mandela. He didn't give up to find freedom for the people in South Africa. Even if he was put in jail, he stayed positive. I looked at myself, and I realised that ...more
Sep 01, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "hit the high points" overview of South African history with particular focus on apartheid & Nelson Mandela. The scope of the book is limited... but it was still riveting to read.

I would be interested in hearing another perspective on the role of the Protestant church and Reformed theology in both the development & dismantling of apartheid... the author has a bit of an ax to grind when it comes to the Christian faith.
Sajith Kumar
There was a time when I chanced upon the Indian passport of one of my uncles lying on the table. I was a student then and I opened the little black book with curiosity. There was an epistle from the President of India appealing to persons anywhere in the world to extend wholehearted help and cooperation to my uncle whose photo was pasted on the facing side. On the next page however, a curiosity awaited me. A seal in indelible blue ink proclaimed that the passport is valid for travel to any count ...more
May 12, 2017 solo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
a reasonably brief but selective history of SA. quite readable, but with some odd quirks, mainly in the later parts. just a sentence here or a short paragraph there, but if you're sufficiently attentive - they become quite jarring.

imagine reading the story of the three little pigs and occasionally encountering titbits like "...after being dishonourably discharged from the army for overzealous participation in the unfortunate Mỹ Lai business, the first little pig built a humble straw hut at the e
Jun 15, 2017 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
In anticipation of a trip to South Africa, I jugatedwanted a readable history of the country and apartheid. Lapierre starts with the 1652 arrival of Dutch farmers - sent to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company. The sole purpose was to grow vegetables (preventing scurvy) for their supply ships rounding the Cape. These settlers, driven by their strong Calvinistic faith believed that their goal was more than farming: they believed that they were God's chosen people to settle and ru ...more
Thomas Ryan
Jan 10, 2017 Sudha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, short and easy to read history of a vibrant nation on our planet.
It pains me slightly to give this book four stars, because while parts of it are amazing, and all of it tells an amazing story, too much of it tells an amazing story in overwrought, hand-wringing fashion.

The main problem with it is that it begins as a fairly objective, fairly reasonable and very well-told history of South African history pre-World War II (which is when the racism that would become Apartheid was not formalized). It then turns about halfway through into a hagiography of the poor.
Valeria Bradosche-pallares
The book A Rainbow in the Sky by Dominique Lapierre is an interesting book about the history of South Africa. One of the 11 national official languages in South Africa is Afrikaans, which is a difference between Dutch and Zulu. This is because on April 6, 1962, three ships stopped on the tip of Africa, which was later known as Cape Town. On board one of the ships was a man called Jan van Riebeeck, who was a surgeon. He was with his wife, their four month old child and 90 other immigrants which h ...more
Pie Resting-Place
Mostly apartheid, not much detail of before then. Nearly nothing about the twenty years since.
Sep 05, 2014 Bethany rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book gave an engaging overview of the history of South Africa. I had only read two textbook paragraphs on the country before reading this book and found it to be a very readable introduction to a terrible chapter of our world's history. Quite a depressing read that ends on a good note.

For someone unfamiliar with the country's history, the author left many questions unanswered. In the modern portion of the book, M. Lapierre covers the political activity of the country, and then shares vigne
Jun 14, 2011 Pawan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While growing up, Apartheid and Nelson Mandela were very common subjects that were part of TV news everyday. Though, I had some idea of what was happening in South Africa, I had no idea about the details till I finished reading this book “A Rainbow in the Night” by Dominique Lapierre recently. I vaguely remember a college debate amongst friends talking about South Africa pulling out of Cricket World Cup if the referendum on Apartheid was not successful in favor of
Phil Good
Nov 29, 2016 Phil Good rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lapierre ha il grande dono di saper raccontare la storia come un romanzo. Ed è un dono prezioso oggi, in cui la storia viene relegata come un affare noioso, inutile nel nostro godereccio mondo consumistico. Ci illudiamo che scegliere cosa consumare sia la libertà, quando la libertà sta nello scegliere cosa pensare: solo la conoscenza può dare la libertà. Ora più che mai conoscere la storia può aiutarci a capire l’attualità. Un esempio: nel 1953 il governo -esclusivamente bianco- sudafricano impe ...more
Jul 13, 2010 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Lapierre relates the history of South Africa from 1652 when Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck lands in the Cape to plant lettuce to 1994 when Nelson Mandela becomes South Africa’s first black president. There are great hardships and great triumphs described and the perseverance of the African people is remarkable and commendable. Mr. Lapierre states in his bibliography that he “wanted to recount, as accurately as possible, a fabulous human epic” which I find he does very well. I admit that I didn’t ...more
Maria Paiz
May 16, 2012 Maria Paiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

In this book, Dominique Lapierre tells the story of South Africa, from Jan van Riebeeck's heading of the first Dutch occupation in 1652, to Nelson Mandela's assumption of power in 1994. Although I knew about apartheid growing up, it was very interesting to learn how a white minority used savage methods to segregate the black majority in their own country, inflamed by Hitler's teachings; and how the fight for freedom was kept alive by courageous men and martyrs, such as Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko
Rishi Garg
Apr 22, 2013 Rishi Garg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I wanted to rank this book higher, and there were chapters of the book that were intense and engaging. After reading "Freedom at Midnight", I thought Mr. Lapierre would focus on the most important players in the freedom struggle. While Helen Lieberman is no doubt full of virtue, truly admirable and an amazing human being, I though the focus on her and the heart transplant surgeon was quite misplaced - a critical race theorist might be disturbed that these admirable white acts were being juxtapos ...more
Sanjay Casula
A thought provoking account of the birthpangs of the South African Nation starting from the Great Trek in Bunghers along Natal , the Anglo-Boer War in which Gandhi participated as a nurse in 1918 Soweto , the Founding of the ANC and the imprisonment in Robben Island subsequent release of Mandiba.
Not exactly in the class of V.S naipaul and other historical novels but serves as a steamed up guide ready reckoner romp to the Rainbow Nation
My only argument with this love fest with south africa is th
Renata Ravanelli
To be honest this book was the most incredible book I've read in the past years. I could feel tears in my face all the time, tears describing how it could be possible, so many years to finish an inhumanity in the current days, that the apartheid was responsible for, is unbelievable this was broken just a few years ago 1994.
This book gave me an incredible overview about South Africa, and how Hitler have changed not just the world in the second war, but created also students to apply your savagery
Dec 16, 2009 Dillon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Captivating for the same reason that it can be scattered. Lapierre has a nack for discussing history through narrative, but that leads to some topics taking up far too much space in the book (For example Helen lieberman -- The portion on her is amazingly interesting and could have been its own book. Just not this book) and others not given enough space (the rise and death of Steve Biko to name one example, was covered in a couple pages). Further, some of the Nationalists connections to the Nazi ...more
Feb 15, 2011 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
This was a surprisingly good book. The author built up the process of setting out the development of the apartheid policies in South Africa. He starts with the immigration of the Boers and their development of the South African society. According to the author, the development of apartheid resulted from the white religion. He does tell the story from a slanted point of view, however justified that is, which takes the book out of a truly factual historical recount. I did find it annoying that he ...more
Grazia Omicini
Jun 16, 2013 Grazia Omicini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Trecentquaranta pagine di storia che si lasciano divorare in un giorno e mezzo, tanto è il talento narrativo di Dominique Lapierre. Il racconto della storia del Sudafrica, dallo sbarco dei primissimi coloni olandesi alla elezione di Nelson Mandela a presidente, è reso vivo e coinvolgente dalla narrazione di singoli episodi della vita di tanti altri personaggi, simbolici e significativi per lo sviluppo dell'apartheid e per la lotta contro questa disumana forma politico-ideologico-religiosa. Le fi ...more
Marcia Call
Hmmmm . . . what can I write about this book? I had such high hopes for this book with its beautiful cover and the lyrical nature of the author's name, however, I should have known better when the jacket flap talked about Mr. Lapierre writing the book without references. What could that possibly mean I wonder. It means he researched and wrote a version of the birth of South Africa with no reference to other historians or writers with one notable and welcome exception, Nelson Mandela's autobiogra ...more
Don Mario
Jun 26, 2013 Don Mario rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
La storia del Sud Africa, dai primi insediamenti sulla costa meridionale, per approvvigionare le navi di passaggio, continuando con le migrazioni dei boeri, il terribile conflitto anglo-boero, fino alla caduta dell'apartheid e il governo Mandela.
Lapierre ha l'abilità di rendere viva la storia: si centra su un personaggio, lo rende vivo, e ti fa vivere gli eventi con i suoi occhi. Un vero cronista della storia.
Certo, il problema è che su questi argomenti sono di parte, ma direi che è un libro be
Jul 29, 2012 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The prose is overwrought and melodramatic, and the narrative is shallow and episodic. But I know more about South Africa than I did when I started. It's a quick read, 240 pages of large type with nothing you have to think too hard about.

Biggest complaints:
- 1651-1948 is covered in just 70 pages
- much of the latter two thirds are taken up with the stories of a white anti-apartheid social worker and the first surgeon to perform a heart transplant
- there is no real analytical consideration of *why
Sreerupa Sanyal mazumdar
Brilliant book, I picked it up out of curiosity so as to see how 'apartheid', the heinous practice was promulgated in South Africa and I was left spellbound. This book is not a true history in the sense, this is not a history book and sometimes chronologies are mixed, by author's own conclusion, it's more a story of the people of South Africa, how the heinous practice affected their lives and how it came to an end. It's a brilliant book that above all shows human spirit to endure innumerable har ...more
John Fletcher
Mar 01, 2013 John Fletcher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great historical narrative about the birth of South Africa. Amazing how recent the events of the nation's racist movement ended and how Nelson Mandela is a true living legend. The books pace is perfect except for some slow portions through out the narrative with the majority of the focus on the development and effects of apartheid. Great book for anyone who lives history but is not interested in a textbook experience. Ties in the human aspect of history through put the book.
Aug 23, 2016 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have quibbles with this book that I've been listening to for the past few weeks on my morning walks. The early chapters get some historical details wrong. There is too much focus on white "heroes." But on the whole a very moving account of the history from the arrival of the first Dutch traders of South Africa through to the end of apartheid. There is hope, even in the darkest corners of empires that humans sometimes erect to enslave others. Well worth the read (or listen).
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Dominique Lapierre was born in Châtelaillon-Plage, Charente-Maritime, France. At the age of thirteen, he travelled to America with his father who was a diplomat (Consul General of France). He attended the Jesuit school in New Orleans and became a paper boy for the New Orleans Item. He developed interests in travelling, writing and cars.

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civili
More about Dominique Lapierre...

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