The Promise by Damon Galgut

Published: 2021 1. First lines 2. Cover: Europa Editions 3. Domestic worker South Africa [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia 4. South Africa Landscape [CC BY 2.0] Image by zoutedrop Cropped.

The Swart family, an Afrikana family, lives on a farm outside Pretoria. Rachel Swart has died, and the family – husband Manie and three offspring Amor, Anton and Astrid – have gathered for the funeral. The black maid, Salome, lives in a house on their property, and the youngest child, Amor had heard her dying mother asking her father to gift the house to Salome. Both Anton and Amor break away from the family, Amor never losing the feeling of injustice suffered by Salome because the promise hadn’t been kept. The story follows their lives against the background of political upheaval in the country.

“You said you would give her the house. You promised.”

Glanceabook: The way this story is written will not suit all tastes, being difficult at times to keep track of who is speaking, due sudden switches between characters, a lack of quotation marks, the use of half sentences, and changes in narrative voice. However, this novel has a compelling story with complex characters that draws in the reader.

  • The Guardian: “This bravura novel about the undoing of a bigoted South African family during apartheid deserves awards.”
  • Kirkus: “Galgut’s multifarious writing style is bold and unusual, providing an initial barrier to entry yet achieving an intuitive logic over time.”


“This is Mrs Starkey’s office, where the voice over the Tannoy told her to go. Amor has been waiting and waiting for this moment for so long, has imagined it so many times, that it already seems like a fact. But now that the moment has really come, it feels far away and dreamy.”

“He appreciates it when people do their suffering offstage, out of sight. Hard enough to cope with your own life, and that’s just the ordinary daily affliction.”



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