This is an intriguing book that starts in pre war South Africa with a young girl challenging the racial divide and bravely stepping across to live as a White, virtually abandoning her coloured family in the process. Emily becomes Emma and adopts English as her first language, dresses and styles herself to deny her origins. This is the beginning of her awakening to injustice and her reaction to the prevailing culture and political system of her country which denies her basic opportunities. Encounters with others who have survived and overcome similar prejudice in other countries encourage and help her to carve herself a new place for in South African society and to get and hold down a challenging job. At the same time political awareness begins to emerge and she faces a major dilemma when asked for her hand in marriage by a white man.

 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. As the reader, her dilemmas and fears become yours and the continual twists of the story produce an exciting sequence of colourful and interesting surprises,, much like the eponymous vase filled with many coloured marbles. The vase itself does not appear until well into the story, but from then on it keeps reappearing with a subtle underlying relevance all the way through to the end.

What begins as the story of a young girl crossing the racial divide soon becomes much more, giving intimate insights into different aspects of South African society. Each of these has its own pressures and strains, its own strengths and prejudices, all of which are brought into the spotlight through the situations Emma and her growing daughter encounter.  Spanning two generations, this book is almost a family saga, but without the long winded tracts such books normally involve. The second section picks up the story of Marla, Emma’s daughter, following her emergence from schoolgirl to university student and onwards. Against the backdrop of South Africa’s most turbulent years, when apartheid was in the ascendancy, witnessing the Sharpville shootings and the emergence of new political organisations, we see a young woman awakening to injustice in her country and developing a political conscience of her own as she begins to discover herself as a person.

Marla’s subsequent trip to England produces a new and intriguing twist to the story with an interesting preamble about her lifelong friend Josh, who had preceded her to London and now acts as host and guide for Marla and her girlfriends. The story soon turns to a tale of love when Marla literally bumps into Bertie, who becomes instantly besotted with her. His subsequent pursuit when Marla returns to South Africa thinking he was not interested is neatly contrived and, like the rest of this book, full of interesting twists and side stories that add colour and complexity to the tale.

Inevitably the truth of Emma’s and Marla’s origins has to come out at some stage and this begins on the dockside where Emma is awaiting her daughter’s arrival. As unaware of recent events in Marla’s life as her daughter is of her mother’s past, Emily is horrified to encounter her brother Jonas. Having become somewhat estranged from her family, she has no knowledge that he works in the Cape Town docks. He tells her that their mother is dying and wants to see her. Slowly the truth emerges and, after a visit to see her dying mother,  Emma confesses to Marla, terrified of how she might react.

Bertie, well bred gentleman that he is, takes it all in his stride and still besotted, carries things off with perfect equanimity, as do his upper crust family who come out for the wedding.

To write any story involving the inter racial conflicts of South Africa would be difficult territory, but Jacob Singer has managed to contrive a very believable and charming story and to tell it in a way that keeps the reader gripped throughout. Whilst expressing no overt  political bias himself, he puts a clear spotlight on injustice whilst showing up the Macchiavellian workings of the state which fosters and exploits it. At the same time he reveals with subtlety the counter currents working below the surface to correct the injustice wherever opportunity arises. 

An outsider with no knowledge of South African history or politics will find this book informative, disturbing and yet redemptive, whilst being entertained by a good story well told. Singer’s understanding of the racial problems and also of other forms of prejudice is deep and his compassion comes through clearly. The title, which seemed at the beginning to be rather irrelevant, becomes a beacon which endures to the end of the book. It symbolises so well the many facets, colours and contrasts of a nation actively evolving and struggling with the process as it does so.

The Vase With The Many Coloured Marbles is a very good book that deserves to be widely read.

By R. G. Phelps "Bud"

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles: Book 1, EMMA Book 2, MARLA (Kindle Edition)

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.


Sep 27, 2011 - Outskirts Press, Inc. has published The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles: Book 1, Emma, Book 2, Marla by Jacob Singer. The author's most recent book to date is a 6 x 9 paperback white in the Republic of South Africa history category and is available worldwide on book retailer websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The webpage at was launched simultaneously with the book's publication. 

The name of Nelson Mandela is familiar to many as a warrior against the injustices of apartheid, but many South Africans also 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 and who live in exile all over the world. Jacob tells the stories of men and women who were harassed and discriminated against and of politicians in the government who surreptitiously worked against the very regime that had employed them. 

Readers will discover unsung heroes such as Emily Kleintjies, who crossed the apartheid barrier and established a life for herself as a white woman. One doesn’t have to be South African or a student of history to learn from this remarkable book, which shares a wealth of unique experience. 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. 

353 pages in length, The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles: Book 1, Emma, Book 2, Marla is being aggressively promoted to appropriate markets with a focus on the Republic of South Africa history category. With U.S. wholesale distribution through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and pervasive online availability through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere, The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles meets consumer demand through both retail and library markets with a suggested retail price of $21.95. 

Additionally, The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles can be ordered by retailers or wholesalers for the maximum trade discount price set by the author in quantities of ten or more from the Outskirts Press Direct bookstore at 

ISBN: 9781432775445 Format: 6 x 9 paperback white SRP: $21.95