Hum is the story of a Xhosa woman, Beauty, and a 9 year old girl, Robin. Set in South Africa in 1975-76, at the height of apartheid, both protagonists experience loss because of the political situation, and are coincidentally thrown together when Robin’s delinquent but lovable aunt is failing her miserably.
It’s a good story. The tension and the situation in the country are well captured and vivid - from the rural mountains of the Transkei to Hillbrow, part of the inner city, and some memorable and rip-roaring scenes in a shebeen and an old car in Soweto. Bianca Marais has a way of drawing you in, setting you up and then keeping you turning those pages for more. I loved the action, the unlikely friendships, the joy in spite of adversity, the creativity of humanity, and the dialogue. It all felt very authentic, without being condescending, and real, without being depressing. And, let's face it, it's not easy to write a novel set in South Africa in 1976.
The adventure is dialogued from two perspectives - Robin and Beauty. Beauty’s voice was strong and sure. Her challenges were immense, and I loved her. I kept trying to find Robin, and there were snatches, but on the whole, she didn't sound or feel like a 9 year old girl, even one who had been made to grow up way too soon.
This book is a quick and easy read, and you’ll enjoy it if you like reading South African fiction. I did.
Oh, and the cute cover is not as brilliant as the book. It's way better than it looks.