Posted: Tue 2nd Nov 2021

Former mayor of Mold Bob Gaffey reviews this year’s Booker Prize nominees: The Promise by Damon Galgut

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Nov 2nd, 2021

The Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world and has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over five decades.

Each year, the prize is awarded to what is, in the opinion of the judges, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland. It is a prize that transforms the winner’s career.

Anuk Arudpragasam, Damon Galgut, Patricia Lockwood, Nadifa Mohamed, Richard Powers and Maggie Shipstead are today announced have been shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction.

The former mayor of Mold, Bob Gaffey has reviewed all six Booker-shortlisted books which will be published on in the run-up to the award announcement day of Nov 3.

Bob is also a keen writer is set to release a book for Mold’s first Bookfest in May 2022.

All this year Booker nominee reviews:

Bob reviews The Promise by Damon Galgut  – Brutal emotional truths hit home in Damon Galgut’s deft, powerful story of a diminished family and a troubled land.


The Promise Review by Bob Gaffey 

This is a story about South Africa and its transformation from an apartheid system to a normal one. It is based on the Swart family who have a small farm run by Marnie and Rachel (Pa and Ma) and they have three children Anton 19, Astrid 16, and Amor 13. The book starts with the death and funeral of Ma. Ma has just reverted back to Judaism. The son is in the army and has lost his temper on duty and shot and killed a black, female stone thrower. He thinks God is punishing him for this with his mother’s death. Amor the youngest hears her parents talk about Salome the black maid who works for and has given her life for the Swarts. Ma gets Pa to promise that the broken down house her family live in will be given to her. The Lombard place is a small house on their farm which is not up to much but it would mean a lot to the black family. This is because if they had the property deeds then stability and a home would be theirs forever. The story is entirely based on this promise as Amor is like a dog with a bone in trying to ensure that this promise made on her mother’s death-bed is carried out. The book starts off in the mid-80s and ends at the resignation time of Zuma in 2018. In other words, the time before Mandela and what happens in South Africa after apartheid ends.

The main characters are fully fleshed out and the author draws you into caring about them. He gives you a bird’s-eye-view of the country and the racism in the minds of the white population in general. Formal religion gets a bad press in the book. We know a lot of the USA religious leaders who set up tv channels and enrich themselves thru getting followers to send them money. This is how the author sees the religious leaders here, only in it for themselves. Anton runs away from the army and the family life until things change and he finally goes back to the farm. Amor escapes to live in London and keeps her distance from the family and the country. Astrid marries young, divorces, re-marries and has an affair with a powerful politician which opens doors for her.

It’s a strong candidate for the Booker. It’s easy to read, does not confuse, and gets you wanting to know what happens next. The conflict between those with morals and those without is laid out. The author is obviously a music fan as he subtly slides the odd lyric into the text unobtrusively. Galgut has been shortlisted twice before for the Booker, will it be third time lucky? Just before the story starts Galgut puts in a quote from Fellini. “This morning I met a woman with a golden nose. She was riding in a Cadillac with a monkey in her arms. Her driver stopped and she asked me, “Are you Fellini? With this metallic voice she continued, “Why is it that in your movies, there is not even one normal person?

About the author 

Damon Galgut is a South African playwright and novelist, who wrote his first novel aged 17 and has now been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize.

His ninth novel, The Promise, is on the 2021 Booker shortlist. Galgut is a multi-award-winning author, and two films have been made of his book The Quarry.

He grew up in Pretoria, where The Promise is set, and now lives in Cape Town.

When asked why he became a writer, he reveals he had lymphoma as a child, during which time he ‘learned to associate books and stories with a certain kind of attention and comfort’.

He is currently working on a collection of short stories.

About Bob Gaffey

Bob Gaffey was mayor of Mold between 2017 and 2018.

He spent six years as a town councillor in Mold, raising more than £10,000 towards the restoration of Bailey Hill in the town as part of a project to turn the former Norman settlement into an outdoor attraction.

The funds were raised by holding events during his time as mayor in 2017/18.

The former union representative is currently chair of the Wrexham, Denbighshire and Flintshire branch of Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and the Delyn branch of Plaid Cymru.

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