Hum If You Don’t Know the Words

Bianca Marais. Putnam, $26 (432p) ISBN 978-0-399-57506-8
Nine-year-old Robin loves detective stories. So when the police arrive the night her parents are killed, she mistakenly believes she is now part of her favorite radio series. It’s a harsh awakening for her to realize that South Africa in the 1970s is a place far more violent than those stories. With her parents gone, Robin’s aunt puts her in the care of a Xhosa nanny, Beauty, a woman with her own tragic secrets: Beauty has vowed to stay in Johannesburg as long as it takes to find her daughter, Nomsa, who has disappeared after a student protest ends in bloodshed. However, as the days stretch into months, Beauty finds herself growing increasingly attached to the motherless white child she is being paid to raise. Likewise Robin grows to love Beauty, despite knowing her dead parents would disapprove of her close relationship with the black woman. In this standout debut Marais handles topics such as grief and racism with a delicate intensity that will make readers fall in love with her characters. From the first few heartfelt chapters to a fast-paced and heart-wrenching ending, Marais has created a stunning historical drama that shouldn’t be missed. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2017
Release date: 07/11/2017
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-7352-1826-0
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-5094-4550-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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