Torn from his parents as a boy in the 1870s, Stephen Mzamane is picked by the Anglican church to train at the Missionary College in Canterbury and then returned to southern Africa’s Cape Colony to be a preacher.
He is a brilliant success, but troubles stalk him: his unresolved relationship with his family and people, the condescension of church leaders towards their own native pastors, and That Woman—seen once in a photograph and never forgotten.
And now he has to find his mother and take her a message that will break her heart.
In this raw and compelling story, Marguerite Poland employs her considerable
experience as a writer and specialist in South African languages to recreate the polarised, duplicitous world of Victorian colonialism and its betrayal of the very people it claimed to be enlightening.
A masterpiece—and an award-winner.
WINNER: BOOK OF THE YEAR, 2021
The Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards, South Africa
A wrenching, deeply felt story about Stephen Malusi Mzamane, a young Anglican priest, trained in England but now marooned in a rundown mission in Fort Beaufort ... battling the prejudices of colonial society, and the church itself.
The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
It’s a rare book that punishes the sins of the past with beauty, but Marguerite Poland knows the power of doing just that. Quietly, implacably, in writing that cuts to the heart of the matter, she draws us into the life of Stephen Mzamane, a young South African trained for Christian missionary work, eager to serve both God and his own people but hampered by conflicted loyalties and the entrenched prejudices of both society and the Anglican Church. Set in the late nineteenth century, the bells of Canterbury and the bells of Africa ring out a story of what was, what might have been, and what in some places, shamefully, still is. An important story, then, and a difficult one, but in the hands of Marguerite Poland, a story luminously told.
John Mbangyeno, Africa Now
‘An emotional roller-coaster—the astonishing love story of a man for a church, an ideal and a woman. Heart wrenching.’
Reverend Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town
'Marguerite Poland, as always, is able to use words to paint reality. She has written an incredibly moving and compassionate yet piercing historical account which both demands apologies for the sins of the past yet is also redemptive.’
Dr Sindiwe Magona
'I love the book and admire Marguerite's courage, to say nothing of her skilfulness, but the subject is painful. The book is fiction but based on church history, and the bigotry parading as decency among church leaders is frightening. Reading the manuscript, I was driven to tears more times than I care to remember. I couldn't stop thinking: if this is what priests thought, is it any wonder that apartheid happened?'
'Poland is a worthy descendant of Olive Schreiner in her heritage and passions.'
Marguerite Poland (born 3 April 1950) is an award-winning South African writer of books for adults and children.
Brought up in the Eastern Cape, she studied Social Anthropology and Xhosa, took a master’s in Zulu literature and folktales, and was awarded a doctorate for her study of the cattle of the Zulus.
Two of her books—The Mantis and the Moon and Woodash
Stars—won South Africa’s Percy FitzPatrick Award. The Train to Doringbult was shortlisted for the CNA Awards. Shades has been a matriculation set text for over a decade. And The Keeper received the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award in 2015 as the title South African booksellers most enjoyed reading, selling and promoting the previous year.
Translated into several languages but still largely unknown in the UK, the author won South Africa’s highest civic award in 2016 for her contribution to the field of indigenous languages, literature and anthropology.
She lives in Johannesburg, the city in which she was born.
A Sin of Omission
EXTENT 420 pages
SIZE 203mm x 127mm (8” x 5”)
BIC CODES FV, HBJH, HRCC91
GENRES Fiction, Africa, Colonialism, Anglicanism, Racism
PUBLICATION DATE 5 May 2022
PR/PUBLICITY Grace Pilkington Agency