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This book has many beautiful themes tangled into its plot if you can dig through the many lengthy descriptions of the setting. While these descriptions are very wordy, the book would not be the same without them. They are tedious and repetitive, but Paton conveys the beauty of South Africa with the hardships and despair that the natives are facing.Paton does a wonderful job of showing exactly how Kumalo, the main character feels. From his characterizations, the reader understands his motives, thoughts and actions.
The setup of the book was confusing because the first section starts in chronological order, then the second section starts in the middle of the plot. Also, there are no quotations which makes the book hard to follow.
Overall, the novel celebrated two cultures reaching out to one another, and the bond between families especially father and son. For people who do not mind lavished detailed settings, I recommend this book highly because the themes taken out of it are unforgettable.
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on March 4, 2000
This book is filled with poetry and symbolism. The writing style of Alan Paton is truly amazing and each line is rich in metaphor and understanding. Obviously inspired by the country he is writing about you can feel the love he has for Africa in each and every line of this text.
As for the story it's a very interesting look at the coming of age in a society that probably doesn't want to come of age yet. It probes deep questions about what right societies have to interfere with each other and what steps can and can't be taken after interference has already occurred. One of the most powerful messages for me was that you can't go back. The natives in the book can not return to the culture that they once had, instead they must look for a way to combine their old culture with the new culture that has been forced upon them. The book seems to give hope that this is possible and makes us realize that culture is stronger than the conditions it lives in and can stand strong against even the heaviest adversity.
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on October 25, 2003
As a seminarian, let me first say this: "Cry, The Beloved Country" taught me more about being a true, compassionate Christian minister then from all I've learned in my short time in seminary. How can I make such a statement? Because the author, Alan Paton, does more to illustrate the power and truth of Christian charity than the best Sunday sermon could ever hope to achieve.
Like all truly great literary works, this book works on multiple levels, the highest being theological. One could write a doctoral dissertation on the Christian theology which pervades every single page of this novel. And yet there is very little preaching, and only a tiny handful of Bible quotations. We are not being talked down too, we are not being lectured; rather, we are being invited into a world where the best virtues are illustrated, not commanded.
Those looking for a political treatise on the evils of apartheid will be sadly disappointed, as this book was written before those laws were put in place. (In fact, the word "apartheid" never appears once in the story.) However, one can easily see the evil seeds being sown that will bear a bitter harvest in years to come.
There are three main characters in this story: the old Zulu Anglican pastor Stephen Kumalo, the wealthy white farmer James Jarvis and the country of South Africa as it was in the early to mid 1940's. The way in which these three characters interact with each other is truly remarkable, and sometimes quite surprising. I could say much more about the plot and characters, but it will be much more fun for the reader to discover these things on his own. It is well worth the effort.
As I write this review, the book is the current selection of "Oprah's Book Club." While I've always taken that label as a warning to avoid a work of fiction, this time it proved to be an invaluable guide to a book I would have otherwise overlooked. The book club's new emphasis on "the classics" is an excellent idea. The first two choices of "East of Eden" and "Cry, the Beloved Country" are outstanding selections. Much credit goes to Oprah Winfrey for steering us out of the gutter of contemporary fiction, and helping us to enjoy the rich, powerful treasures from our recent past. You go, girl.
I read a tremendous amount of books, more so than anyone else I know. So you can truly appreciate how significant it is when I say "Cry, The Beloved Country" is one of the top ten best English language novels I've ever read. Very highly recommended.
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on January 28, 2001
Somehow, in my slog through high school English, I was deprived of the reading of Paton's "Cry, the Beloved Country". Unlike many things, though, this was a true deprivation. I first read this several summers ago; though Paton's novel is specifically relevant to an era that is now receding into the past, his prose remains haunting. So deceptively simple is his language, yet flowing, this is almost a book best savoured aloud (well-worth the reading of to a friend).

Though apartheid has now blessedly slipped the scene, leaving South Africa with its aftermath to struggle through, Paton's story of the Reverend Kumalo's search for redemption is enduring. Perhaps most significant though, is the very simple idea at the core...reconciliation...of father with lost son, lost daughter...of murderer with the victim's Paton's time, and still so in our own...of each of us with our fellow humans.

This is a book that moves me deeply every time I read it, and loses nothing in a rereading. Of the thousands of books I have read, encompassing a myriad of styles, of academic fields...this is still the one book that I recommend without hesitation, without prejudice, to any and to every. This is a truly beautiful work.
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on November 30, 2000
If there were more stars with which I could rate this book, I would use them all. I have read this book many times, and would like to share my thoughts on one of the most beautiful books in the history of literature and in the English language. It is a story about friendship, humanity, being hurt and being free; it is a story about kindness, forgiveness, sacrifice and perserverence. But most of all, it is a story about a love so amazing that it must die so that the seed which falls can grow again. Although the evil of Apartheid has been finally abolished by justice and righteousness, the lesson that it has taught us must never be forgotten. And Paton's unique diamond of a masterpiece will continue to speak resoundingly to the future about a painful history of mankind that spelt deep tragedy but great poetry and human triumph as well. I cannot begin to extol the beauty of this novel - so profoundly rich in Christian virtues, so poignantly told. If you wish to hear the African grass sing its morning song, to hear a land of blood and tears beat her heart, and to marvel at the integrity which is man - read this wonderful book. It will change your life.
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on October 29, 2003
Cry, The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton is truly a compelling novel. It is brilliantly written and had me intrigued throughout the entire novel. The rich text captures the moments and allows me to feel and be a part of all the chaotic activity.
It made me think about how fortunate we are today to have diversity in our neighborhoods and in schools. We really don't think about it until we are forced to; whether it is by coincidence or by intention. It made me sad to think about how we concentrate on little bothers and miss out on the huge issues like the ones in the novel, including racial discrimination and the struggles between justice and the law.
The way Paton has formatted his text gives a stronger feel to it. It's excellent how he puts a great deal of emotion and detail throughout the entire novel. Some examples of this are when he writes about the great valley of the Umkomaas. He describes it by saying, "the soil is sick, almost beyond healing." It gives you a clearer picture of how the soil really was. Another example is when John Kumalo speaks about raising the wages in the mines. Paton wrote, "The crowd stirs as though a great wind were blowing through it. Here is the moment, John Kumalo, for the great voice to reach even to the gates of Heaven." He states the point but adds a little kick to it and makes the statement more understandable. By putting emotions and details into his novel it drew me more into it.
The intensity in the events was so great that it took me to places I've never been before. Like whenever Paton raised the intensity, it felt like I was right there with his characters. Almost like I was Mr. Kumalo going through all of those troubles. It was very powerful to me. My mind has opened up to new ideas that I would've never thought of before. Such as maybe white people weren't always racist against blacks. That blacks and whites sat in the same churches. Also that by one man's doing, a whole world can change. Like when Jarvis helped out Kumalo's land, by giving those supplies that were desperately needed.
I would definitely recommend this book to whoever likes intensity and purity in a novel.
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on June 4, 2000
There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. So starts this book, a portrayel of one South African man's struggle to reunite his family. Kumalo is a black man who lives in South Africa in the 1940's admist Aparthied. His goal is to bring back his sister and son back to him. Alan Paton does an excellent job showing the obvious difference between a life of a black and white. Skin color was everything at that time. He displays the awful townships that blacks must live in because they have no other place to go. He also shows how mistreatment of blacks was a daily routine. As only a seventh grade student, I have to admit that at times I was sometimes confused while reading. However, the true meaning of this book was obvious. South Africa has gone through a tragic life. This book gives such an in depth gripping example of a black man's life that it is hard not to believe that it isn't an autobiography. This book displays the racial injustice of the law, by showing the sentence against Absalom. It's a true-eyeopener of the cruel history of our world, and what we have done to it. This wonderful book is one that should be read.
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on October 1, 2003
"Cry The Beloved Country" is a moving story of the affect of racism on families under colonialism out of which apartheid developed, which system later legalised racism. S.A.faces major problems to-day, the Aids crisis and a poor economy both of which can be directly traced to apartheid which broke down black family life,referred to by Paton in the introduction in articles he wrote stating," the underlying causes of African crime ... the disintegration of tribal life and traditional family bonds under the impact of Western economy and culture." This break down seen in the way black workers were treated, described by Paton.Big corporations such as the mines, built houses for white workers for wives and families; black workers were housed in single accommodation in compounds, only visiting their wives once a year! Likewise with domestic workers who supplied cheap labour but not permitted to having spouses living with them in backyard rooms in the suburbs. Prostitution was rife and likely Aids began spreading in the early 1980's in S.A. The apartheid government spent 6 times more on a white child's education than a black child, the policy was to keep black people as a serving class. This has caused an uneducated and untrained workforce which contributes to the poor economy and poverty leading to crime. The cycle must be broken. Understanding the cause of these problems will encourage foreign investment to provide jobs to end the poverty. Perhaps someone reading "Cry The Beloved Country" will be encouraged to invest in South Africa.
I applaud Oprah Winfrey for choosing this story for her Book Club choice, bringing attention to the hardships black people suffered and yet they always expressed joy and hope, demonstrated by their great leader, Nelson Mandela, who set the example of reconciliation rather than retaliation. An example world leaders, particularly in the Middle East, would do well to follow. Paton writes beautifully, describing the people and the countryside.
Elaine Bunbury.
"What Hope Have You!" a story about the affects of colonialism and apartheid upon three families of different races in South Africa, over 100 years and 4 generations.
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on February 16, 2001
Somehow this was a classic I "missed" in high school and college. I just finished reading it yesterday and still find myself thinking about many of the beautifully rendered scenes. Others have summarized the plot -- I love the labyrinthine (Dante-esque in scope) descent from the country side into the hell of Johannisburg. As we watch the narrator weave his way in and out of the horrible living conditions, we are presented with a modern day Inferno that would have made Dante proud.
The dialogue is rich and detailed and the character's well-developed. There are some gut wrenchingly scenes between a father and his son, not to mention between his other siblings as well. Bitter disappointments, difficult circumstances and a trial that makes To Kill a Mockingbird's look fair add to the book's tension. Overall, a lyrical and stirring portrait of unfairness and oppression (but also beauty and purity) in South Africa and one family's trials and tribulations. It makes one wonder how much things have really changed from Paton's day.
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on November 6, 2003
The Reverend Kumalo is at the center of a social experiment that has destroyed tribes, families, societal values and human beings. He is a poverty-stricken minister, caring for his flock of villagers living in a drought-stricken area of South Africa. The drought and its devastating effects on the capacity of the already-poor to farm and provide for their families seems to be a metaphor for the human drought born of racism and emerging apartheid.
The land will no longer feed them, the young flock to already-teeming Johannesburg and they then get swallowed up in the further degradation of thievery, murder and prostitution. And the majority Afrikkaners then satisfy themselves with the proof positive that blacks are inherently weak, untrustworthy, lazy and are beneath dignity.
This novel both paints a devastating picture of everything that's wrong with racism and the ensuing apartheid while holding out hope that there are some among the white who see the problem as clearly as Reverend Kumalo and strive to do something about it. Unfortunately, however, those who advocate for the despised sometimes get destroyed in the process.
And that is exactly what happens to one idealistic young man, the son of a wealthy Afrikkaner landowner, who writes extensively and publicly advocates for those who have no power. But the young man is not destroyed by one of his own, who fears a change in the power balance, but by one of those for whom he advocates.
Each father mourns the loss of his son; the father of the murdered knows the white man's justice will prevail but will still leave him childless and the black man's father knows he has lost a son on two counts. One, he lost his son when Absalom left the village and broke all communication with his heartbroken parents. Two, for a black man who killed a white man, there is only the white man's justice.
Reverend Kumalo meets the good, the bad, the indifferent, the greedy and the generous. His dialogue is that of a humble man, loved by his townspeople, deeply respectful of others. While his demeanor is very self-deprecating, he cannot be mistaken for one who is servile. Reverend Kumalo's deep understanding of human beings, with all their inherent imperfections and machinations, is awesome. Despite this, he forgives.
Thankfully, despite his great personal losses, Reverend Kumalo witnesses a number of small miracles thanks to an unexpected source. His benefactor, and that of the village's, is the father of the young man who was murdered.
This is an eloquent book written by one who truly understood the evil and great destructive powers of any system that strips a people, any people, of their basic and fundamental rights to be
respected, independent and self governing.
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