Marais’s ‘HUM’ Gets Louder At Putnam

February 13, 2016

Kerri Kolen at G.P. Putnam’s Sons took world rights to the debut novel by Bianca Marais, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. The novel, which the publisher is calling a “South African The Secret Life of Bees,” is set in Johannesburg in 1976. During the Soweto uprising, in which a number of black South African students protested a national decree calling for Afrikaans to be heavily used in high schools, 10-year-old Robin Conrad loses both her parents. That same day, the daughter of Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman, goes missing. After Robin, a white middle-class English girl, is sent to live with an aunt, Beauty is hired as her main caretaker. As both characters “grapple to deal with intense personal loss and political racial tensions,” Putnam explained, “they discover that color is not a barrier to love.” Marais, who was represented by Cassandra Rodgers at the Rights Factory, is a South African now based in Canada; she graduated from the University of Toronto’s creative writing program.