PREORDER Agaat, by Marlene Van Niekerk (12/1/2020)
Tin House Books
In the waning days of the South African apartheid, Milla, an elderly white woman, is silenced by a creeping paralysis. As she struggles to communicate with her maidservant turned caretaker, Agaat, the complicated history of their relationship is revealed.
Life for white farmers in 1950s South Africa was full of promise. Young and newly married, Milla carved her own farm out of a swathe of Cape mountainside. She earned the respect of the male farmers in her community and raised a son. But forty years later all she has left are memories and the proud, contrary Agaat. With punishing precision, yet infinite tenderness, Agaat performs her duties, balancing anger with loyalty. As Milla’s white world and its certainties recede and Agaat faces the prospect of freedom, the shift of power between them mirrors the historic changes happening around them. Marlene van Niekerk’s epic masterpiece portrays how two women―and, perhaps, a nation―can forge a path toward understanding and reconciliation.