The Promise

The 2021 Booker Prize winning book is piercing and provocative. It delves into our hidden subconscious racist mentalities which can seem subtle and harmless from the outside. The story is about a white South African family, the Swart’s, and is told through four funerals extending over different time periods, encompassing South Africa’s transition out of apartheid. When Rachel Swart is on her death bed, she asks of her husband, Manie, for a promise, wherein he would give the ownership of their current home and it’s accompanying land to their black caretaker/ maid, Salome. This conversation is overheard by their youngest daughter Amor. However, the promise is never kept and is conveniently forgotten or shelved citing legalities. Despite Amor reminding her father and her other siblings, Astrid and Anton, of this promise, nobody bothers to consider it. This betrayal sort of falls as a curse on this family wherein everyone, other than Amor, dies a tragic death. And that’s when, Amor hands over the property to Salome, but is then forced to confront her subdued racism and her inherent fecklessness.

The book focuses deeply on the skewed and troubled interpersonal relationships between the parents and the siblings and between the siblings themselves. The dysfunctional and patriarchal upbringing damages each of the children, as they suffer from insecurity, lack of self worth, and body image, relationship and mental health issues. The author, Damon Galgut, doesn’t shy away from addressing the reader directly in the midst of the narration to point out our prejudices and bigotry. His rendition of complex human emotions and the subliminal satire is ingenious. Restitution when not done on time, need not guarantee absolution.

This book set during the apartheid times has won the prize this year, when we are also witnessing a travel apartheid against South Africa and other African countries due to omicron.

Have we, as a world, learnt anything?


Author: theshinydiaries

Being authentic; one day at a time!

2 thoughts on “The Promise”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: