The Promise, by Damon Galgut
20 September 2021
An unfulfilled, decades old promise divides an already dysfunctional South African family of five, in The Promise (published by Chatto & Windus/Penguin Random House, 17 June 2021), the ninth book by Cape Town based playwright and novelist Damon Galgut.
In her final days, family matriarch Rachel extracts an undertaking from her husband, Manie, to provide Salome, the well-off family’s long serving housekeeper, her own house on a block of land. Amor, a daughter of the Pretoria based farming family, overhears the conversation, and is determined the commitment be honoured. Her frustration grows though as the years pass, and the family fails to deliver.
The Promise, the third of Galgut’s books to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, switches its storytelling perspective between the troubled family members. The pledge to take care of Salome is an analogy of sorts for a hopeful South Africa emerging from the apartheid years, and the challenges confronting the country in moving away from its past.