Book Review Jan Smuts


By Richard Steyn


When I review a book I consider four things:

  • Value for money
  • Interesting content (backed up by accurate research if necessary)
  • Design, layout and illustration
  • Quality Production/Publishing

If you have the scantest interest in South African history this is an absorbing book, the writing style of Richard Steyn is easy on one’s comprehension while enjoying a late afternoon or pre-slumber read!

I so enjoyed the detail on Smut’s personal issues as well as the considerable influence he had on the international leadership challenges and the leaders of that time. As Winston Churchill said ‘my faith in Smuts is unbreakable’.

It is remarkable that both he, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi comprise three of the 11 statues that are in Westminster Square in London. Richard eloquently explains ‘why’ as he traces the extraordinary influence of Smuts during the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War on the geo-political developments of the time.

  • Why was he unable to comprehensively deal with his own backyard ‘native problem’?
  • Why did he seek the friendship of women ahead of great men?
  • How was he able to side with leaders during the First World War that he had so bitterly fought against during the Boer War?
  • Why, as Prime Minister, was he abroad during the 1948 National Party election victory?
  • How did he become Chancellor of Cambridge University?
  • Was he a dedicated family man?

Richard answers these questions and so much more. The book is diligently and comprehensively researched, beautifully written and has many relevant and historical images.

All 250 pages are fascinating, well presented and well worth it at R219.00