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Publisher's Summary

Southern Africa was once regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer republics, and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. But then prospectors chanced upon the world’s richest deposits of diamonds and gold, setting off a titanic struggle between the British and the Boers for control of the land. The result was the costliest, bloodiest, and most humiliating war that Britain had waged in nearly a century, and the devastation of the Boer republics.

The New Yorker calls this magisterial account of those years “[an] astute history.…Meredith expertly shows how the exigencies of the diamond (and then gold) rush laid the foundation for apartheid.”

©2007 Martin Meredith (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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  • Cary
  • Napa, California, United States
  • 05-23-14

Engrossing story on the evolution of the modern SA

I read this book when it was first published in the US some years ago and was enthralled. Very familiar with the territory as I am, I have recently been severely disenchanted by the abundance of post-1994 revisionist pablum that now occupy the bookshelves of most bookstores and many libraries. One recent, well-acclaimed review of the new South Africa barely mentions pre-1994 history!
This audible book gave me a chance to re-explore the hows and the whys of the Republic's evolution. I enjoyed it thoroughly and was fascinated to, once again, re-discover how much the story parallels our own US history during a similar period (without King and Country, of course). At least those much maligned "white Africans", the Afrikaners, get a fair hearing here and one also begins to realize that their British Imperial overseers were as much responsible for sowing the seeds of apartheid as their Boer wards. Affirmative action, early twentieth century style.
The narration is, on the whole, very good indeed BUT is marred by the reader's absolutely atrocious and fractured pronunciation of Afrikaner place-names etc. Something that, with a little advanced vocal coaching could easily have been rectified, btw. Otherwise Highly recommended!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Top-notch narrative history; pitiful pronunciation

Years ago I devoured Meredith's The Fate of Africa and was duly impressed with his ability to capture monumental volumes of information in one gripping narrative. Page turner. So I knew going into Diamonds, Gold, and War that I was in for a treat. The story did not disappoint. In this volume Meredith doesn't take a demographics and statistics approach to historiography, but rather a character-driven approach. He brings to life the persons of Kruger, Smuts, Milner, Jameson, and above all, Cecil Rhodes... among many others. It is their ambitions, fears, manipulations, and quirks that Meredith weaves into a storied tapestry until, almost surprisingly, the listener finds that the finished masterpiece in view is the modern nation of South Africa in all its tragedy and glory. Superbly crafted, and truly enjoyable.

The narration, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. I never imagined myself a narration snob. In all the other books I've listened to, I've not had a complaint about the narration. But this one caught me off guard. First was the pace, agonizingly slow. For the first time ever I used Audible's speed-up capabilities and was grateful for the return to normal listening. But the more major frustration - one which technology couldn't turn off - was the narrator's utter lack of familiarity with South African terminology. I grew up in South Africa for several years, long enough to learn to shudder when foreigners mispronounced common words like kopje, veld, and even boer. I shuddered over and over and over listening to Waterson's narration. Proper nouns such as Potchefstroom, Magaliesberg, Witwatersrand, Gaborone, and Bambatha left him completely lost. I understand that these are foreign words to an American Brit like Waterson, but surely Audible could have chosen a narrator familiar with the region of the world on topic. Or Waterson could have done his homework. Youtube is amazingly easy to use - listen to South Africans saying South African words. If Meredith spent years doing his homework, surely Waterson could have spent a few minutes doing his homework.

To be fair, Waterson's pronunciation got a little bit better as the book went along. I was expecting the worst when he got to the closing chapters about Botha, but he did pretty well.

But then to top that off, there were even a few English words that made him stumble. He pronounced "hegemony" at least two different ways, I think it might have even been three.

So in a nutshell, still well worth the listen as Meredith presents a gripping narrative history, but don't even think about imitating Waterson's pronunciation if you ever choose to converse about southern Africa and want to sound like you know what you're talking about.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • South africa
  • 05-02-15

Interesting poorly narrated

audible needs to get a South African to narrate this book. The pronunciation of placed names and names of people is inaudible.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Interesting story of Southern Africa

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend this in a heart beat...

What other book might you compare Diamonds, Gold, and War to and why?

None like it other that specific history of various events in Southern Africa... this is a great overall story encompassing the entire history...

What does Matthew Waterson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

passion and excellence in delivery of the story...

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

the never dying spirit of the Voortrekker and the Boer...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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excellent

enjoyed this very much... scope was great. fascinating cat of historical figures... really enjoyed it

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Terrible Narration

Unfortunately, I could no longer continue to listen to the narration. It's was terrible! If someone is going to narrate a book surely they would do research on the correct pronunciation of key terms that are being used throughout the book. Boer is not pronounced Boa to name but one of the many difficult to understand terms!

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Great narrator, great story

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would definitely recommend this audiobook to a friend because the story of South Africa is fascinating and engaging, with interesting people, places, and events, as well as triumphs and tragedies.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Diamonds, Gold, and War?

I was intrigued by Churchill's capture and escape.

What does Matthew Waterson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His voice and accent seem perfectly suited for this narration. I like the way he read quotes - no "voices" or over-emphasis on making the quotes stand out from the rest of the text. Overall, I think his narration makes this probably better as an audiobook than as a read one.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The South African Holy Trinity

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Shocking and absorbing

Fascinating account of the early years of white South Africa. The writer does a remarkable job of bringing the major players to life through quotes, communications, and anecdotes. The two major players, Cecil Rhodes and Paul Kruger, come across as tragic figures who ignore their own salvation: The integration of the African natives into their new society. Lots of parallels to the US, but apparently the British weren't able to deploy smallpox on the population. Highly recommend to those who think our current politics is brutal. We've got a long way to go.

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informative and entertaining

An interesting history full of complex characters. The narrator has a wonderful voice and did an excellent job. The ending was rather abrupt and sometimes the story-telling seemed unwieldy but all in all, a great read with a lot to learn from. I considered it overall very well written.

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About the best audio book I have listened to!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

this book is just very well written and very well narrated!

What did you like best about this story?

the characters are very well portrayed , described and the setting as well

Have you listened to any of Matthew Waterson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

his narration was very well done, I think he is one of the best narrators out of three I have thus far listened to on Audible

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

listened to it actually numerous times1

Any additional comments?

great book and narration!