A Sin of Omission
Author Marguerite Poland
Publisher Envelope Books £12.99
This is a superb, highly readable if challenging novel. It is set in the Cape Colony of South Africa in the late nineteenth century and tells the story of two brothers: Malusi (Stephen) Mzume and his elder brother Msamo. Born into village poverty Malusi wanders outside the village into the bush in search of food to be found by a priest, who undertakes to take both brothers into his church and to train them as priests. Stephen is then sent in 1869 to St Augustine’s Missionary College in Canterbury. He is out of place there as a Black man in a white society and on returning to his homeland he finds himself equally displaced from his own former tribal culture. This is a story about colonialism, racial discrimination of the worst order and the risks of moving outside one’s own culture. It is about the failure of inculturation, the unbending imposition of religion upon a tribal culture and the sin of omission – the failure of the church hierarchy to support the very people trained to reach out to their own people. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by MIKE ABBOTT