Chatto & Windus, $32.99 pb, 304 pp
Rachel Swart is in the final decline of a terminal cancer when she extracts a promise from her husband, Manie: he agrees to give their maid Salome the deed to the Lombard Place, a small house on the family’s farm. It is an act of recognition. Salome has cared for her, has mopped up ‘blood and shit and pus and piss’, doing the jobs Rachel’s family found ‘too dirty or too intimate’. It is 1986 in South Africa, and already the idea of giving Salome the land on which she lives can’t help but invoke the paranoid spectre of widescale repatriation.