The journalist Heidi Holland met Robert Mugabe 30 years ago, when he'd just been released from prison and she gave him dinner at her house. She met him again, in 2007, for a formal interview with him in State House in Harare. She fills in the intervening years, during which Mugabe turned from a freedom fighter into a tyrant, with a series of in-depth interviews with those who've known him best: his brother Donato, his early Zanu colleague Edgar Tereke, Lord Carrington, and others.
A fascinating picture emerges of a shy, self-made intellectual of considerable gifts (he has seven genuinely earned university degrees); an anglophile and an anglophobe, capable of both magnanimity and pettiness; a man whom life has treated badly but who lacked the strength of character to respond with grace.
The book is far from being an apologia for Mugabe. He is a monster with blood on his hands, but, Holland shows, with sensitivity and understanding, how he got to be that way. (She also clears up the mystery of that peculiar little moustache he wears – apparently he grew it to annoy a particularly mean warder when he was in prison.)