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The Beneficiaries

by Sarah Penny

A thought-provoking novel about the search for truth in post-apartheid South Africa.

The first four chapters of our new edition can be read here.

“The memory comes from the private space – the most private – secluded behind the scars of concealment, the not-speaking of it. She has never spoken about it to anyone.”

It is 1998. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is trying to make sense of over 30 years of human rights violations. In London, Lally, a white South African émigré, goes to dinner with Pim, a long-forgotten childhood friend, and his English family.

For Lally, adult existence has remained transient, uprooted: a life of little consequence estranged from its own origins. But it is becoming clear that history will reach out, even to the inconsequential, and for Lally to seek out the truths of the child she must breach the hermetic safety of adult refuge.

Exploring the relationship between memory, forgetting and denial, South African author Sarah Penny explores the many versions of the truth that can ultimately lead to healing.


Sarah Penny was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1970. She studied at the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University and St Andrews University, Scotland, emigrating to the UK in 2003 to lecture in Creative Writing at Brunel University London, where she completed her PhD on sangomas (traditional African healers).

Sarah has three children and lives in North London, but still travels regularly to South Africa. When not writing and teaching, she works with communities, mainly in African countries, using arts for social change.

She is the author of two novels, originally published by Penguin South Africa: The Beneficiaries (2002) and The Lies We Shared (2011). The Beneficiaries was a set-text in South African secondary schools in 2013-2014, and was re-published in a new edition by Valley Press in 2019.


Edition: Second, revised

Date Published: 2019-09-24

ISBN: 9781908853936

Catalogue Number: VP0110

Number of Pages: 226

Cover design by Jamie McGarry

Cover photographs by Fernando Weberich and Pierre Amerlynck

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