Damon Galgut’s Booker-winning novel starts on the deathbed of Rachel Swart in apartheid Pretoria in 1986. We then follow the ironically named Swarts - descendants of white settlers - as they cling to their farm through tumultuous changes South Africa goes through. As with other books in this month’s selection, the novel dives into the history of the country and its defining eras while following the fate of the Swart family. Galgut’s black humour makes us laugh even in some of the darkest moments as he offers a satirical commentary on racist and bourgeois white South Africans. The novel’s quasi-magical realist narrative may remind you of Salman Rushdie’s the Midnight’s Children, where the surrealism of the narrative is matched by that of the historical events.
One family. One promise. One chance to tell a new story.
On a farm outside Pretoria, the Swarts are gathering for Ma's funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for - not least their treatment of the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. Salome was to be given her own house, her own land...yet somehow, that vow is carefully ignored.
As each decade passes, and the family assemble again, one question hovers over them. Can you ever escape the repercussions of a broken promise?
Praise and awards
WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021
'A tour de force... A spectacular demonstration of how the novel can make us see and think afresh' Booker Judges, 2021
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