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The Unlikely Secret Agent

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  86 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
Reading like a spy thriller, this biography tells the remarkable story of a young woman’s courage in apartheid-ridden South Africa. As the book opens, in 1963, South Africa is in crisis and the white state is under siege. On August 15, the dreaded security police swoop down on Griggs Bookstore—Durban’s finest literary haunt and a place where African National Congress (ANC) ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Monthly Review Press (first published November 1st 2010)
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Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of anti-apartheid hero Eleanor Kasrils is here told with unmatched sensitivity by her widower, the more famous Ronnie Kasrils. This is a great revolutionary love story as well as a great revolutionary story, one that the two of them wanted to tell together, but which Ronnie Kasrils ended up having to do on his own. As a final tribute, it could not be better.

The action focuses on the first year of the Kasrilses' clandestine work for Umkhonto we Sizwe, including their brief participation
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This short book recounts the incredible story of Eleanor Kasrils, an underground ANC fighter in apartheid South Africa, and later on in London, where she quietly but determinedly helped the struggle for a free SA. The story is told through her husband's lens and through this it is possible to see what a strong passion connected them, both fighters for the same cause. Fast forward 30 years and the problems ravaging South Africa are different. But it is always useful to remind ourselves of what we ...more
Meneesha Govender
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was meant to be something they did together - write the story of how a young, middle-class, white woman became a secret agent for the liberation movement of South Africa.

"Sadly it has been left to me alone to fulfil that wish," says Ronnie Kasrils.

The story he is talking about is that of his wife, Eleanor Kasrils.

She died in November last year before they could get around to doing it.

So as a tribute to his "darling wife", Ronnie Kasrils set about writing her story of love, courage, sacrifice
May 19, 2013 added it
Really interesting book. I can't believe Eleanor was only 27 when she did all that. Absolutely amazing! It's so fascinating finding out what people did in their lives. I hope all the stories of people's bravery get published though - not just white people's. There must be so many out there that we just haven't heard about yet. Obviously, all the famous people's lives have been documented - such as Nelson Mandela - but I think it'd be interesting to find out about what the regular people did too. ...more
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
I know a guy called Ken. Ken went to Apartheid South Africa in the 1960's to plant explosives and achieve other covert objectives for the armed wing of the ANC, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Ken was recruited by Ronnie. The man who wrote this book.

This book touches on a period of Ronnie and Eleanor's life before they moved to London and became ringleaders in the story of the London Recruits: The Secret War Against Apartheid. It focuses on the period starting with Eleanor's arrest following her through
May 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
I received this book through a Good Reads giveaway. I was a little disappointed. I have no knowledge of politics in 1960's South Africa. in several parts of the book I felt lost, because the author seems to assume that this is a time period and part of the world that the reader is familiar with. Maybe because he lived through these experiences? I would love to read more about Eleanor, but as told by someone else.
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, memoir, historical
This was an interesting topic and a very quick read. It's a short book, and leaves you with her escape complete but wondering about her daughter and how that part of it her story was resolved. The book is written by the main character's husband, and its humorous because he is also a character in the book and so must refer to himself constantly in the third person. Other than that, I finished the book in three days and found it enjoyable enough. I'd give it 3.5 stars.
For a person like myself who usually doesn't read biographies or autobiographies, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. As detailed as the story was, it was a very brief glimpse at only a small part of her life. But I however learned far more of struggles I had no really idea about. I had very basic knowledge and to be told more was an interesting and belittling experience.
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I like reading books about people who stand up for what they believe in, but I like to know more about what motivates them to take risks and make sacrifices. This book definitely unlocked a little mystery for what it was like at the time in South Africa, but left me with a lot of questions all the same.

Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
What started out as a simply-told story about white Apartheid-resistance worker Eleanor Kasrils turned into an engaging spy/underground story about a brave woman and an important time in history. It is a fast read and is well-worth reading.
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, africa
Disappointing! Raises a lot more questions than gives answers about her life. Best bet is to read the appendix which covers more about her work and role in creating cells for the African National Congress.
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Real page-turner! Riveting story, and easy to read.
David Smith
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful is a word that comes to mind. Individuals make a difference and this is the story of an extraordinary South African.
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