Monday, 31 August 2009

Invictus. Playing the Enemy book review

Invictus, Playing the Enemy
Book review
31st August 2009

You may remember that I posted an entry a while ago about the amazing experience of Zak Feaunati being unexpectedly cast in the role of Jonah Lomu in Clint Eastwood's new film, the Human Factor.

Well, I vicariously lived through the entire filming process courtesy of his wife, who I work alongside and who has lent me a copy of John Carlin's 'Playing the Enemy', the book on which the film was based.

It was an unusual read - truly a book of two halves. The first was a historical perspective on the rise and fall of apartheid, all linked to the life and times of Nelson Mandela, its central character. This element reads like a history book, because it is! It is even published under History / Politics. Whilst interesting, this section was heavy going and in the end it took me three months to get to the half way point, and had me wondering why anyone could see it as a seam of credible cinematic material.

But then I entered the second half passing through the obligatory selection of black and white images into the vibrant technicolour of the 1995 Rugby World Cup competition. From the here the story really picked up the pace, gaining speed akin to Jonah Lomu's legendary turn of speed. Suddenly, I found myself captivated by the storyline and the spectacle the book conveyed. Whilst the first half had been a three month war of attrition, much like the cup final match itself, I raced through the latter stages in as many days.

The story provides a powerful insight into Nelson Mandela, founding father of a divided nation. His skill in achieving the seemingly impossible dream of a united South Africa is stunning, and his use of Rugby as the glue to hold a fragile infant nation together can only be described as pure genius.

History already dictates a fairytale ending, with the unfancied Springbok's achieving a surprise victory against the All Blacks, the tournament favourites which included Lomu, their secret weapon. But the true miracle of the tale is how the sporting event played a direct part in drawing together the factions who had long been enemies. Its a story of great hope.

If this can be achieved in South Africa why not in the Middle East?, why not in the Balkans?, why not in the war torn areas of central Africa?

The book's sub title is "Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation". That says it all really.

What has all this to do with waterways? Virtually nothing! However, the book spoke to me, so I thought I would share my enthusiasm.

The Book is available from Atlantic Books for £12.99
ISBN 978 -1-84354-869-0

As for the film? It is due out on 5th Feb 2010 and I can't wait. See you at the premier.

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