'This has survived as a South African classic not just because it's beautifully written,' wrote Anthony Sampson in the Spectator, 'but because it conveys the combination of ordinariness and danger which is implicit in any totalitarian state.' The World that was Ours is about the events leading up to the 1964 Rivonia Trial when Hilda Bernstein's husband was acquitted but Mandela and the 'men of Rivonia' received life sentences. 'This passionately political memoir,' observed The Times, 'is vibrant with the dilemmas of everyday family life, quick-witted dialogue, fast-paced adventure and novelistic detail.' Yet the political background is not dwelt on: it is simply taken for granted that civilised South Africans fought apartheid and the uncivilised propped it up. The main strength of the book is as an outstanding personal memoir; in this respect it bears comparison with autobiographies by Nadezhda Mandelstam and Christabel Bielenberg. 'It reads like a thriller page after page... The loveliest of Hilda Bernstein's works about the ugliest of her times' said Albie Sachs in the Independent.
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Hilda Bernstein (1915-2006) met and married Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein in South Africa; they had four children. She was elected as a communist on the Johannesburg City Council; worked as a journalist; and helped found the Federation of South African Women. Hilda and Rusty escaped from South Africa to London in 1964 and remained there for the rest of their lives.
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