Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Brana Marais

By Lynn Willoughby

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words ~ Brana Marais

The title of this book is intriguing and the idea of seeing Apartheid in South Africa through the eyes of one family was interesting. However, the story is very predictable.  his is a summer read – contrary to what the content would lead us to believe.
Chapters alternate between nine year old Robin and how Beauty Mbali see the world. The beginning of the story is the night of the Soweto uprising in 1975. Normally Robin’s world and the world of Beauty would never cross. However, the student riots changed both their lives.
My problem with this novel is that Robin is not very believable. Alan Bradley’s series featuring Flavia de Luce – another child detective, are much more lively and entertaining. Robin’s aunt is despicable and unreliable. Beauty at least gives us a flavour of the times, although she also is not a strong character.
I expected this to be a much more serious book given the turbulent times, but clearly apartheid and the resulting complex problems and chaos were not the author’s intention for this book. The definition of grief, the meaning of family seem to be the point of this novel. I found the ending silly and am left with that memory. I just expected more meat.
This is a debut novel.

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