Hum If You Don’t Know the Words
Bianca Marais’ stunning debut novel offers a beautiful examination of racism, grief, and love during 1970s South Africa. After unimaginable violence at the hands of black men claimed the lives of her white parents, nine-year-old Robin must leave her home to live with her aunt Edith. Devastated by her loss and disappointed by Edith’s lack of responsibility, Robin seeks refuge in an unlikely friendship with her black caretaker, Beauty, a Xhosa mother searching for her daughter who disappeared after taking part in a student protest. Together Robin and Beauty navigate the complexities of human emotions and the rigidity of apartheid laws. But when Robin’s fear of further loss prompts her to deceive Beauty, the consequences are heartbreaking and may not be repairable. In alternating narration that gives a fresh perspective on life during apartheid, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words is a powerful novel that is both tender and swift.
Marais is proficient at capturing the unique voices of her unforgettable characters. With exquisite sensitivity, she shrinks the sweeping political state of the period down to an intimate story. Her breathtaking scenes move with poignancy. Marais has crafted an important historical novel that is relevant to today’s racial tensions.
G.P. Putnam's Sons