The focus is on the Swart family, running a small reptile park and living on a tiny barren farm. Salome their loyal African servant was promised the ownership of her house by both Rachael and Manie Swart. The book is structured in four parts round the funerals of Rachael, Manie and their two children Astrid and Anton – all about 10 years apart.
But the book is more than a promise to Salome; there is the promise that democracy will bring jobs, education and space to achieve their goals – especially for the majority of Africans. Also the promise of peace between all racial groups. Instead the 30 years introduces increasing chaos, violence and poverty still for large numbers of people.
Amor, the youngest daughter, tries to ensure that the promise to Salome is kept by her family but at each funeral this idea is rejected by her bitter, fearful and self centered family members. Finally, when she is sole heir she gives both a title deed and her inheritance from the trust fund to Salome, now an old lady. But this gift arrives too late to improve the lives of Salome and her son. Galgut, a South African writer, has no solutions for the problems of this complex country which may take several generations to work towards prosperity.
'The Promise' was greatly enjoyed by the group and generated a lot of discussion about the characters and the issues it raised.
Next month we are trying two books - 'The Survivors' by Jane Harper and 'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine' by Gail Honeyman - to see how that works out.