This latest novel by Damon Galgut, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, charts the decline of a white family during South Africa’s transition out of apartheid. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for — not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.
Promise pushes the titular word to its limits, creating a powerful and moving story, which makes use of it’s third person narrative to switch between characters suddenly yet elegantly, emphasising the conflict between them and the resentment they hold.
Encompassing the years 1986 – 20128 in the lives of the Swart family, the omniscient narrator abruptly darts from one character’s consciousness to another shifting from the third to second to first person – creating a challenging but always absorbing read.