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Publisher's Summary

WINNER OF THE 2021 BOOKER PRIZE

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE

A modern family saga written in gorgeous prose by three-time Booker Prize-shortlisted author Damon Galgut.

Haunted by an unmet promise, the Swart family loses touch after the death of their matriarch. Adrift, the lives of the three siblings move separately through the uncharted waters of South Africa; Anton, the golden boy who bitterly resents his life’s unfulfilled potential; Astrid, whose beauty is her power; and the youngest, Amor, whose life is shaped by a nebulous feeling of guilt.

Reunited by four funerals over three decades, the dwindling family reflects the atmosphere of its country - one of resentment, renewal, and, ultimately, hope. The Promise is an epic drama that unfurls against the unrelenting march of national history, sure to please current fans and attract many new ones.

“Simply: you must read it.” (Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine)

©2021 Damon Galgut (P)2021 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

“Galgut extends his extraordinary corpus with a rich story of family, history, and grief.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

“This tour-de-force unleashes a searing portrait of a damaged family and a troubled country in need of healing.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

“Galgut’s compelling new novel blends characters and history and intricate themes to reveal the devastating impacts of white privilege and institutional racism.... The Promise is timely, relevant, and thematically significant.” (Booklist, starred review) 

What listeners say about The Promise

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Brilliant

Galgut has woven a brilliant story and the writing is in top form. A joy for fans of Galgut new and old.

2 people found this helpful

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Clearly Deserving of the Booker Prize

I feel impotent expressing how exceptionally good this book is. Unquestionably the best book I've ever read or listened to. And that includes classic English titles.

And among the best readings.

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Not worthy of an award

The story is disjointed and poorly developed leaving key plot points hanging and characters mere cut-outs.

1 person found this helpful

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My Favourite Book this Year

Damon Galgut is a skilled and agile writer. The South African setting and the time was particularly interesting to me. The characters are artfully developed and enhanced by a clever reading by Peter Noble. There is so much "promise" for this family, which goes unrealized over the decades. The perennial issue of racial injustice is distilled into another "promise" - home ownership promised to the Black nanny of the household. One family member, who is struck by lightening as a child, does a kind of undefined penance for the wrongs of the family, though this is never described. The reader is left to fill in blanks and connect dots, which is something I like in a book. This book is not all about despair. There is some finely drawn satire to sweeten the narrative. My partner is a fussy reader and he loved this book too.

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  • ALG
  • 2021-11-09

Excellent novel

I stumbled across an article that this South African (SA) novel had been awarded the Booker Prize - and having been born and lived in SA foe the first 27 years of my life, (born the same year as the author) decided it was worth upgrading my Audible membership to listen to it.

If you have ever lived in SA anytime over the last 65 years or so .. you will definitely find lots of “connections”. I have been living outside of SA for over 30 years, and had many “oh I remember that” moments.

The narrative and accents were true to form, and the stories, places and people were believable. An enjoyable read, but definitely one that needs concentration to keep up with the characters.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas Mierzwinski
  • 2021-11-20

Promise Broken

On the strength of a Booker Prize, this book promised to be exceptional, but was not. Each chapter felt unfinished and unsatisfying. The book ended abruptly and left me thinking "is that it?" And "who cares?"

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  • Elizabeth
  • 2021-11-11

Awful

The writer relies heavily on excrement and other bodily fluids to create the mood. No thanks. I never ever give up on books. Here is a first.

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  • Avid reader
  • 2021-12-15

Incredible!!

A book with a deceptively simple story that actually provides perspectives on so many aspects of life, both personal and societal, in South Africa and anywhere. A book that will stay with me forever. Genius. Pure genius.

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  • Angelgirl_Ragdolls
  • 2021-11-21

Horrible voice-over.. hated the book on audio

Maybe it’s better if you read it? Main problem is there are no likable characters. There is one who is likable but she is presented in mother Teresa fashion.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cloisters
  • 2021-11-14

Promises delivered

Galgut is heading into Coetzee territory . His language is pared down and bone dry ( save for the bodily fluids which aren’t for the precious ). The prose is as delineated as the landscape
I await his next book

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  • Howard S Fredman
  • 2022-03-15

Depressing but meaningful

Learning the demise of a family in what is the demise of a country is an exquisitely wrought story about a very depressing occurrence. Ultimately a promise is kept even though the multiple promises are not. I didn’t love the experience of listening to the book but I found it worthwhile.

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  • Gavish
  • 2022-06-12

excellent book

Great story and deep psychological descriptions, the reading is excellent and stimulating. I recommend this highly

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  • Levins-Hevin
  • 2022-05-30

A story that I undrrstand

Story was of a past that is long gone. And best remembered with melancholy of past sins with occasional blessings.

The narrator did not do justice to the story. A pity.

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  • Stephen86336
  • 2022-05-27

Dysfunctional people with family

Brilliantly written with an innovative or old motif style , addresses the reader directly. Can tell you,show he writing the story with intrusive but delicate presence and still the story telling carries you along. Author is coolly sympathetic to his miserable characters but is that enough