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The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles, Book 1, Emma Book 2, Marla Paperback – September 21, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Outskirts Press; v2.0r2.1 edition (September 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1432775448
  • ISBN-13: 978-1432775445
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,686,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Maestra-Amanda Bookshelf. Review: The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles "The vase is like South Africa, a country filled with people of many colours, a few who are truly uncut gems." (pg 322) It has been a long time since I've read a "grown-up" book. When I received an email asking if I would read and review The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles by Jacob Singer, I was intrigued and jumped at the opportunity. Here is the synopsis (copied from the back of the book): The name of Nelson Mandela is familiar to many, as a warrior against the injustices of apartheid. But many South Africans worked to break the power of the Verwoerd regime: the Black ANC and PAC, but also English and Afrikaans-speaking whites. In The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles, Jacob Singer draws on his personal knowledge and experience to reach out to all South Africans, especially those who left the country because of violence; who live in exile all over the world. Jacob tells the stories of men and women who were harassed and discriminated against, and the politicians in the government who surrepitiously worked against the very regime that had employed them. You'll read about unsung heroes such as Emily Kleintjies, who crossed the apartheid barrier and established herself as a white woman. You don't have to be South African or a student of history to learn from this remarkable book, which shares a wealth of unique experiences. Everyone who is concerned with justice and the human condition will be fascinated and enlightened by the tragedies and triumphs shared in Jacob Singer's words. The book itself is divided into two books, one about Emma (Emily) and the other focusing on her daughter, Marla. In reality, though, the storylines cross so much, that it just reads as one book, with each chapter focusing on a different character. Born into a "Coloured" family in Distric 6 of Cape Town, Emily Kleintjies was so light-skinned that she could pass for white. Seeing the racism and disadvantages her life would face if she remained in Cape Town / District 6, she taught herself English mannerisms, way of dress and diction in order to move to Johannesburg and try to pass herself off as white. She moves to Johannesburg, changes her name to Emma Kline and finds work at a local department store as a lingerie buyer, and part-time model for a fashion designer. Eventually, she meets and falls in love with Eric, but he is sent to the front lines of WWII. Emma, who didn't tell Eric her secret, finds herself pregnant with his child, Marla. Eventually, with the help of friends, she gets papers forged to say she was born to a white, European family. The many characters and stories are so intertwined, but tie together so nicely, that I feel like I can't talk about one without telling about everyone, how they are involved, and then that just tells the entire story! I'll admit, I was a little disappointed in the way Emma had to harden her heart against her family and divide her life into compartments, but I understand why she felt she had to. I was also a little disappointed that she felt she had to keep it a secret from Marla for so long, but was pleasantly surprised by Marla's reaction (after reading so many teen angst and drama books, it was very nice to have a character not go off in a huff). The synopsis on the back of the book doesn't do it justice. Its so much more than what was presented. I really enjoyed it---so much in fact, that I gave it to my sister Sunday night to read (as soon as I had finished it). --Maestra-Amanda Bookshelf

By Reading has Purpose. One of my goals for the year was to read 3 fiction books (I think it was 3). I made it through two: The Five People You Meet in Heaven and A Lesson Before Dying. When I received the pitch for this book, I decided to request a review copy and make it the 3rd. The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles is a book that contains two stories: Book 1 Emma, a young girl, finds that she is classified as a second class citizen because she is biracial (white and black). She rebels and decides to cross the colour barrier and enter the white European community with her fair skin allowing her to pass as white; Book 2 Marla, Emma s daughter, is raised as white and at the university she attends, becomes very active in opposing apartheid. She learns from Emma that her true grandmother is a Cape Coloured and is on her deathbed. Emma would like her mother to see a grandchild she never knew she had. As I read through Book 1, I could see that a lot of care went into this novel. It is filled with historical facts and vivid details of the characters. The author also includes content on cultural idiosyncrasies in some Cape Town communities. I was curious enough to circle several of these items and enjoyed the extra tidbits I picked up after doing additional research of my own. I did not expect that I d have to learn so many characters. A few times I thought everyone had been introduced only to see another unfamiliar name. Once I made it to Chapter 6, I didn t want to meet anyone else! However, the author established a connection between all of these people and the main character, Emma. Emma decides to leave home in order to assume a new identity and live as a white woman. She disguises anything about herself that would allow her to be identified as black in her quest to live an unrestricted life. I'm not sure how to feel about this decision. The synopsis on the back cover of the book heralds her as an unsung hero'. I wouldn't go that far. Is it heroic to live a life that denies part of who you are? Is it heroic to befriend people and have a romantic relationship with a man while intentionally hiding from them your true self? There s so surprise in the irony that by denying she was black she was always fearful that someone would discover who she really was. --Reading has Purpose

The lives of Emma and Marla will absorb a readers attention. Emma s struggles and achievements touch your heart and inspire you to work harder - improving life for yourself and your family, but also for those around you who experience society s injustices. Marla s storybook romance adds to the enjoyment of the book. This historical fiction account of life in 1920 s through 1960 s South Africa concludes with a short chapter - entitled The Politics - which gives additional information about events related to apartheid. The two sections of the book focus first on the life of Emma, then on the life of Marla, her daughter. Emma (Emily,) born into a coloured family, feels the injustice of the segregationist society; however because she is able to pass as a white, she crosses barriers that the rest of her family cannot. Emma strongly believes in the power of education. After completing high school, she is determined to attend the university, but her family is large and needs the income she could provide. Rather than work at a low-paying job in Cape Town, Emma decides to use her lighter skin and the English language she perfected to travel to Johannesburg to live and work as a white. Emma keeps learning, working hard, and making friends, some of whom know her secret. (Some of her friends fled Nazi Germany only to find a similar prejudice infesting the country to which they had escaped.) She sends her family money which they use to improve their house, when permitted, and educate her sisters and brothers. Behind the scenes, she works with and donates money to groups that are attempting to reverse apartheid laws, while also trying to stop the imposition of harsher new laws after the 1960 s. Her daughter Marla is raised as a white, but she and many of her college friends protest the government s policies although this always causes Emma to worry that Marla s heritage will be discovered. Young adult and adult readers will enjoy reading the story of Emily s transformation into Emma, a store lingerie buyer, homeowner, and part-time model. The friendships and romances of both Emma and Marla introduce intelligent, sometimes funny, caring characters into the storyline. For a reader who knows very little about South Africa and its history, the book is a wealth of information about a beautiful country, blessed with rich resources, but troubled by segregationist attitudes which became more established and immoral over time. --Live to Read

From the Author

This story is a story I have lived with all my life. It took many years to write, and brought back many painful memories. When one day, I was threatened by the South African Security police, because I refused to give them the names of a group of student leaders, my wife and I encouraged our children to emigrate. Once they had settled, we followed them. 
Do enjoy the read.

More About the Author

I, Jacob Singer, was born in a small town called Potchefstroom, 72 miles West of Johannesburg in South Africa. As a child, growing up in Potchefstroom was wonderful, with total freedom of the town, walking alone to and from school, or throughout the town from the age of 7 years.
It was only went I went to London, England as a Pharmacy student at the ripe old age of 18, that I found out how sick South African society truly was. When I returned to South Africa, five years later, I met my wife, and started practicing Pharmacy in a business I opened called Protea Pharmacy, moving to the Mooi River Pharmacy, when my father retired. With three children I tried to lead a normal life, but soon found out that the racial laws of the country troubled me. In the Pharmacy, I always treated my employees, no matter what their racial distinction, the same. This made me many enemies in Potchefstroom, but I must admit, that I did enjoy thumbing my nose at those who regarded Hendrik Verwoerd's apartheid policies as the ultimate.
Unfortunately, years later, when I refused to give the Security Police certain information,I was told by the Brigadier that came to see me, that my family would no longer 'be protected'. That same night our dog Gamboo was poisoned. My wife and I then encouraged our children to emigrate, and once they had settled, we followed them to Canada.
My deepest regret today is that I did not do more for my employees, especially those discriminated against, by the racial laws of the country. My book is about people I got to know over the years.
My BLOG site is http://www.jacobashersinger.com.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Very well written for a light read.
Heila
The way the story is told eases one into South Africa's politics subtly whilst bringing Emma to life as a vivid and interesting character.
Ian Mathie
Both sections were very interesting and full of rich detail about the characters and the beauty/history of South Africa.
The Paperback Pursuer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chels on November 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
The lives of Emma and Marla will absorb a readers' attention. Emma's struggles and achievements touch your heart and inspire you to work harder - improving life for yourself and your family, but also for those around you who experience society's injustices. Marla's storybook romance adds to the enjoyment of the book.

This historical fiction account of life in 1920's through 1960's South Africa concludes with a short chapter - entitled "The Politics" - which gives additional information about events related to apartheid. The two sections of the book focus first on the life of Emma, then on the life of Marla, her daughter.

Emma (Emily,) born into a "coloured" family, feels the injustice of the segregationist society; however because she is able to "pass" as a "white," she crosses barriers that the rest of her family cannot. Emma strongly believes in the power of education. After completing high school, she is determined to attend the university, but her family is large and needs the income she could provide. Rather than work at a low-paying job in Cape Town, Emma decides to use her lighter skin and the English language she perfected to travel to Johannesburg to live and work as a "white." Emma keeps learning, working hard, and making friends, some of whom know her secret. (Some of her friends fled Nazi Germany only to find a similar prejudice infesting the country to which they had escaped.) She sends her family money which they use to improve their house, when permitted, and educate her sisters and brothers. Behind the scenes, she works with and donates money to groups that are attempting to reverse apartheid laws, while also trying to stop the imposition of harsher new laws after the 1960's.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yvonne Hertzberger on February 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
Let me begin by saying this is not the kind of book I gravitate to. I read it out of curiosity after the many comments I read about it. But once I began I was completely drawn into the story.
The book spans the decades before and during the struggle to deal with apartheid in South Africa, up to recent years. Singer follows two female characters, a mother, Emma, and daughter Marla through Emma's early years, right into Marla's adulthood, from the times of a racist country in the throes of Apartheid to the present struggle to rid itself of the lingering effects of that destructive policy. This is a book about politics, racism, and the struggle for equality. Yet it avoids the common pitfalls of focusing on the sensational aspects that so often show in acts of rage and violence. Rather, it stays inside the lives of two very `real' people learning how to live in a segregated world without losing their dignity or becoming embroiled in violence. These are the stories we do NOT see in the news. And it is this approach that makes" The Vase With The Many Coloured Marbles" an engaging, thoughtful, often tender tale that draws the sympathetic reader in. At the same time it manages to educate the reader about life, politics, and the struggle for equality in South Africa. It teaches without preaching, speaks without orating, educates without becoming academic.
Singer interweaves the in-depth tale of his two primary characters with the secondary characters and their backgrounds at the points at which they appear and become players in the plot. It is an unusual tactic, but in this book, one that works extremely well. Singer also adds sections of description of various places within South Africa that help the reader `see' in ways that make us feel we are there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RG Bud Phelps on February 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author carefully develops a history of South Africa - a "Tale of Two", first the mother and then her daughter. The development of Emma's life by the author deals with the frustrations of growing up white in a Coloured Community. From the beginning this young girl decided to cross over from Coloured to White, aware of the discrimination that was prevalent. Reading about how she went about this process kept the reader on the edge of their seat, wondering if she will be caught in the process and what will happen when they do. I felt I was right there in South Africa, walking through the various neighborhoods and enjoying the beauty of the country. The reader does have an opportunity to understand so much about the author's family and living conditions but at the time he or she is just speculating what really happened. When an author sucks you into their story to the point that you are concerned for the safety of his characters he has definitely accomplished his goal, and he had me right there. The changes in Emma's life and the advantages that she gained were not easy and I found myself wanting to help her along. The love that was shown throughout the book both in Book One (Emma) and Book Two (Marla) I feel came from the authors caring heart. The undertow of Apartheid throughout the book brought a different awareness to me on how it really was in South Africa during the time frames of the two books. We all have read many stories about Apartheid but this was the most revealing to me. I do not want to tell you more about this wonderful story, other then to say - Enjoy a well written "Tale of Two" and all of their friendships and connections.
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