Helen Suzman: Bright Star in a Dark Chamber

Author(s): Robin Renwick

biography & memoir

'The task of all who believe in multiracialism in this country is to survive. Quite inevitably time is on our side...' Helen Suzman was the voice of South Africa's conscience during the darkest days of apartheid. She stood alone in parliament, confronted by a legion of highly chauvinist male politicians. Armed with the relentless determination and biting wit for which she became renowned, Suzman battled the racist regime and earned her reputation as a legendary anti-apartheid campaigner. Despite constant antagonism and the threat of violence, she forced into the global spotlight the injustices of the country's minority rule. Access to Suzman's papers, including her unpublished correspondence with Nelson Mandela, was granted by her family to the author, former British ambassador to South Africa Robin Renwick, who has penned a book rich with examples of her humour and political brilliance. This first full biography goes beyond her famous struggle against apartheid into her criticisms of the post-apartheid government. It is a fascinating insight into the life of a truly great South African and her role in one of the most important struggles in modern history.


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"Helen Suzman was sharp, incisive, principled and loads of fun. So is this biography... Brings Helen Suzman to life." John Carlin, Author of Invictus "Robin Renwick was British Ambassador in the 1980s, and writes lucidly and carefully as both friend and historian, taking us through the years of tightening apartheid and its educational, social and domestic repressions. It covers Sharpeville, Soweto, Robben Island and the atrocities and injustices which Suzman fought... as a character she emerges superbly." Libby Purves, The Times "[T]he truest of liberals... this crispy, lucid account is persuasive in presenting her as the doughtiest of fighters for human rights anywhere and one of the finest parliamentarians." The Economist "Robin Renwick's biography brims with anecdotes. In an era of overlong biographies, it shares her fondness for clarity, concision and humour. It is also exquisitely timed... and relevant today." Alec Russell, FT "The new insights that Robin Renwick brings to the extraordinary life and achievements of the late Helen Suzman will help to ensure that this exceptional South African and universally acknowledged human rights campaigner is accorded her rightful place in history." John Battersby, former editor of the Sunday Independent "Wonderfully readable story of someone I think of every day." Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape "Lord Renwick has done us all a great service." FW de Klerk "A wonderful book." Peter Bruce, Financial Mail "Timely, easy to read, elegant biography of the redoubtable Helen Suzman." Business Day "This well told story of Lord Renwick's old friend, revered by a whole generation of Robben Islanders, is also the history of the rise and fall of apartheid... brilliant use of vignettes and anecdotes." City Press "A fascinating insight into the life of a truly great South African... Former British Ambassador to South Africa Robin Renwick has penned a book rich with examples of her humour and political brilliance." The South African "A story of sheer political grit, courage and conviction, proving that even in the darkest hour there remain people loyal to their principles." South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe "Brilliantly written portrait of an inspiring figure." Mamphela Ramphele "An admirable and affectionate portrait of a remarkable woman." David Welsh, author of The Rise and Fall of Apartheid "A remarkable biography about a memorable woman. As British ambassador to South Africa, Lord Robin Renwick established a lasting friendship with Helen Suzman. Hence the excellence of this biography: the clarity of language, grasp and depth of issues, the human touch that pervades every chapter, and the deceptively easy readability. Coming at a time when liberalism has again come to the forefront of the national debate, it could not have appeared at a better moment." Stanley Uys, veteran South African journalist and political commentator

Robin Renwick, Baron Renwick of Clifton, is a crossbench peer in the House of Lords. During a long and illustrious diplomatic career he has been British Ambassador to South Africa and to the United States. His book, A Journey with Margaret Thatcher, was published by Biteback in 2013 to great critical acclaim.

General Fields

  • : 9781849546676
  • : Biteback Publishing
  • : Biteback Publishing
  • : 0.545
  • : January 2014
  • : 216mm X 138mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : April 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Robin Renwick
  • : Hardback
  • : 968.06092
  • : 256
  • : Illustrations