1st Line/1st Paragraph: Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

 July 23, 2019

1st Line/1st Paragraph: Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

I’m linking up this week with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph of the book you are currently reading.

First Paragraph

I’m pleased to share the first line and first few paragraphs of a book that’s been on my TBR for some time: Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais. I’m actually eager to read the new release by Bianca Marais If You Want to Make God Laugh, but I’m on a long library wait list so I’m reading Hum while I wait.

From Amazon: “Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred…until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing. 

Told through Beauty and Robin’s alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don’t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.”

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Hum if You Don't Know the Words

Genre/Categories: South Africa, Apartheid, Historical Fiction, Coming of Age

1st Line/1st Few Paragraphs:

“I joined up the last two lines of the hopscotch grid and wrote a big “10” in the top square. It gave me a thrill writing the age I’d be on my next birthday because everyone knew that once you hit double digits, you weren’t a child anymore. The green chalk, borrowed from the scoreboard of my father’s dartboard without his knowledge, was so stubby that my fingers scraped against the concrete of the driveway as I put the final touches on my creation.

“There, it’s done.” I stood back and studied my handiwork. As usual, I was disappointed that something I’d made hadn’t turned out quite as good as I’d imagined.

“It’s perfect,” Cat declared, reading my mind as she always did, and trying to reassure me before I washed the grid off in a fit of self-doubt. I smiled even though her opinion shouldn’t have counted for much; my identical twin sister was easily impressed by everything I did. “You go first” Cat said.


I pulled the bronze half-cent coin from my pocket and rubbed it for luck before flipping it into the air from my thumbnail. It arced and spun, glinting in the sunlight, and when it finally landed in the first square, I launched myself forward, eager to finish the grid in record time.

I finished three circuits before the coin skittered out of the square marked”4.” It should have ended my turn, but I shot a quick look at Cat who was distracted by a hadeda bird making a racket on the neighbor’s roof. Before she could notice my mistake, I nudged the choin back in place with the tip of my canvas shoe and carried on jumping.

“You’re doing so well,” Cat called a few seconds later once she’s turned back and noticed my progress.

Spurred on by her clapping and encouragement, I hopped even faster, not noticing until it was too late that a lace on one of my takkies had come loose. It tripped me up just as I cleared the last square and brought me crashing down knee-first, my skin scraped raw on the rough concrete. I cried out, first in alarm and then in pain, and it was this noise that brought my mother’s flip-flops clacking into my line of vision. Her shadow fell over me.

“Oh for goodness’ sake, not again.” my mother reached down and yanked me up. “you’re so clumsy. I don’t know where you get it from.” She tsked as I raised my bleeding knee so she could see.

Cat was crouched next to me, wincing at the sight of the gravel embedded in the wound. Tears started to prickle, but I knew I had to stop their relentless progression quickly or suffer my mother’s displeasure.

“I’m fine. It’s fine.” I forced a watery smile and gingerly stood up.

“Oh, Robin,” my mother sighed. “You’re not going to cry are you? You know how ugly you are when you cry.” She crossed her eyes and screwed up her face comically to illustrate her point and I forced the giggle she was looking for.

The first chapter engaged me immediately, so I’m anticipating a great read!


Have you read Hum If You Don’t Know the Words or Masais’s new release If You Want to Make God Laugh?

 Looking Ahead:

Return on Friday for my review of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce and next week for my end of July Wrap Up and a 2-year Bblogiversary Giveaway!

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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    • That’s why I copied more than the first paragraph to include that sad part ….. it’s cruel how our words can hurt children. 💔 Thanks for commenting, sharing, and leaving your link!

    • Thanks for commenting Diane! Your comment ended up in spam so I’m just seeing it! Sorry! Thanks for leaving your link!

  1. I found out today that I’ve won a copy of If You Want to Make God Laugh, so I’ll be reading Hum If You Don’t Know The Words also.

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