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The Covenant Mass Market Paperback – March 12, 1987

4.5 out of 5 stars 231 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A prodigious endeavor . . . Nowhere else could an American reader unfamiliar with South Africa get so full an understanding of its problems in so engaging a form.”The New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

Adventurers, scoundrels and missionaries. The best and worst of two continents carve an empire out of the vast wilderness that is to become South Africa. For hundreds of years, their rivalries and passions spill across the land. From the first Afrikaners to the powerful Zulu nation, and the missionaries who lived with both--all of them will influence and take part in the wars and politics that will change a nation forever.
THE COVENANT: generations of people who forge a new world in a story of adventure and heroism, love and loyalty, cruelty and betrayal.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 1248 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett; Reissue edition (March 12, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449214206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449214206
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.7 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mrliteral VINE VOICE on October 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Sometimes it's nice to read a small book, a quick 150-300 page diversion from the real world. At other times, however, it's nice to read a book with some real "meat" to it. Few big name writers were more adept at producing these meaty books than James Michener, and in the Covenant, he presents one of his biggest, a 1200+ page epic about South Africa.
As usual, Michener is not as interested in adventure or characters as he is with relating the history of a particular region. This is his formula: to cover a region from prehistoric times to the present, watching it slowly get settled and eventually civilized, though this civilization is often with a great price. This is not to say that he doesn't write a compelling story: he does, but he does not use heroes or villains to populate his world.
This is a good book, but a reader new to Michener should learn to try and not get too attached to specific characters, as Michener treats them rather unsentimentally, and they often die in undramatic fashion. Also, although there are some unpleasant people, Michener does not make them truly evil; he usually can show that these characters believe they have justifiable reasons for their actions. Writing as objectively as possible in a novel, he judges no one but rather allows the reader to make the judgements.
Many will be put off by the size of this book, but this is actually a reasonably fast read. In the end, the reader will feel both entertained and educated, and that is perhaps the best that can be asked of from a novel.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
It isn't easy to sum up the South African story in a few pages. As a South African I've had to suffer an endless litany of populist garbage published on the back of my country's "flashpoint" status since the 1990s.
It's even harder for an outsider to fully fathom the bitter legacy which drove the two great tribes of southern Africa on a path towards war and reconciliation. But Michener, the consummate "citizen of the World", has again hit the nail on the head.
Michener has an unerring feel for the birth of nations. He proved it first in "Hawaii" but, for me, "The Covenenant" is his greatest accomplishment.
The story of the pioneering Afrikaners and their clash with the proud Zulu empire ranks as one of the all-time great "historical bookmarks" - and there's no one better to tell the tale.
I'm glad you came along, Mr Michener.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a masterpiece. A masterpiece of history bur also a masterpiece of human nature. Often, in a 1200 pages book, the author loses himself (and us) with useless details. Not in this one. Each page conveys the essence of that book: The Love of The Land.
One would think that Michener came from South Africa since he depicts that love with such purity and such passion. He also sucessfully avoided falling into the trap of taking side which, when you write on such a contreversial country, is very tempting.
You will discover South Africa and learn to love it, even if you never have set foot in Africa or never particularly cared about that region. This is how powerful this book is.
Learn to love that land through the eyes of the Nxumalos, a family of Zulus who emigrated south thousands of years ago to find food and adored the land in all of nature's expressions.
See it also through the destiny of the Van Doorns, a dutch family who, exploited through many generations by a country ran by the sense of business, returned to the fondamental values of god and the soil and made this land theirs, convinces that god granted them this new Eden.
Finally, follow the Saltwoods, A family of English noblemans who after wondering what Britain presence should be in South Africa became part of that intricate cultural web.
No race or culture is evil, history dictates what we are and will be. Passing on that book is passing on a great opportunity to understand the complex history of a country rich in emotions but also in understanding the events that led to the Appartheid and racial tensions in South Africa.
Mr. Michener, while you are there, write us an history of the paradise !!!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In _Covenant_ Michener takes us to a society that has always been more complex than many would like to believe: southern Africa. I truly felt better educated after reading it. It is important to note (in case you're not very familiar with Michener) that it was written during the latter days of apartheid, when it was looking shaky but not yet tottering.
Michener's efforts to see the unfolding South African history through many different sets of eyes (of multiple colours) remind us that it is not only South African blacks who have many cultures, but whites also: French, Dutch, English and Germans all took root. The book does not minimize the historical origins and impacts of segregationism, but it has the breadth to see that not every European has always supported the apartheid system. We see that some have bucked it, and paid the price.
A weakness, in my view, was the lack of much real cultural depth on the widely varied African tribes. On two or three, we get depth; on the rest, little. The other is debatable, not really a weakness but a caveat to the reader: there are major events depicted in the book (such as the Mfecane, a sort of mass self-destructive movement supposedly sweeping through the tribes and depopulating them) that are now asserted not to have occurred. Certainly, when Michener wrote, whites were telling most of the history; however, by itself that does not validate or invalidate any of the history--it simply means it's open to question and should be investigated further. In that light, before allowing Michener's take on major events to plant itself as definite historical truth, one should take care to seek multiple viewpoints and deeper evidence than what is presented in this novel.
Recommended to Michener fans, those interested in South African history, and those desiring to see how religion can shape the very core of a society.
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