“I had never heard of Paton’s novel and the passing of Mandela whilst I perused it was an unexpected coincidence. This did, intensify its impact, however, and at the same time sadden me that while some changes have been made, there’s certainly, and sadly, a long while to go. Published in 1948, Paton had keen insight into the absurdities and complexities of a segregated society and captured the period with grace and humility.
A parson from a poor African village journeys to Johannesburg in search of his son, brother and sister, all of whom have left and have sent no word of their whereabouts. The trip is eye-opening and while fraught with tragedy, it is also one of hope and salvation.
Reverend Stephen Kumalo addressed as umfundisi is a humble and introspective man devoted to his family and church. When his son and other family members leave the small village for the big city and are not heard from, he is prompted to search for them. His travels are both heartbreaking and uplifting yet this man out of his element displays dignity in the face of all that comes his way.
Brother to Stephen, John is his polar opposite; outspoken, opinionated and given to drink and profanity. He has found his place in Johannesburg and enjoys the small amount of power he has gained as a speaker of the people. He enjoys being at the center of things, yet he is not able to follow through on his ideas for a worker’s strike.
James Jarvis is more alike Stephen Kumalo than his own brother. A quiet and reserved man, the murder of his son opens his eyes to the work his son was doing addressing the inequities in South Africa. An unlikely friendship between the parson and this grieving father is a beautiful one indeed.
I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it.
I am sure Mr. Paton would be an easy person to speak to and believe he’d put me at ease and be amenable to my numerous queries. I’d love to ask him about his time as a teacher and his observations in various prison systems. Obviously a natural talent, I’d still prod him for some writing tips.
My rating for Cry, the Beloved Country is an 8 out of 10.”
“An excellent tale of the struggles of several families in South Africa. No one escapes, not even the rich.”Donna K wrote this review Saturday, October 26, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This was a deeply moving book that will stay with me for a long time. It falls into the elite category on my bookshelf of "I will read this again and again". I loved Paton's writing style...short, concise sentences and the dialogue written without quotation marks (as well as the social themes in the book) made this very reminiscent of another of my all-time favorites, The Grapes of Wrath. The book looks at themes of equality and social justice in pre-apartheid South Africa from both sides of the race equation...and I found myself understanding and empathizing with characters on both ends of the spectrum. The Zulu pastor, Stephen Kumalo, is a heartbreaking character, and his relationship with Jarvis, the father of the man his son killed, was one of the most touching aspects of the novel. I highly recommend this book for any readers interested in literary fiction. My only regret is that I waited so long to read it,”sadiqsagheer wrote this review Thursday, September 26, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I hated this book--but don't mind me, mine is very much a minority report. This was assigned to me in high school, and I hated this then and resorted to Monarch Notes to spare myself. And mind you, this isn't a long book--less than two hundred pages. I saw one of the reasons I undoubtedly disliked it pages into my latest try. Paton, emulating Steinbeck we're told in the introduction, is one of those writers who omits quotation marks. This is an affectation which annoys me no end, and makes it much harder to absorb what I'm reading. In fact, I'd sworn that in the future if I saw that again, I'd put down the book unread. But this is short, and motivated by a sense of duty unfulfilled and the short length--this is the kind of book I could read in a few hours--I decided to give it a chance. After all, I hardly want to be as narrow-minded as a friend of mine who refuses to read anything written in first person.
Well, I got half-way through before I asked myself why suffer? This is not an assignment, not homework. There will be no test. I do get why this was assigned me as a callow teen. Back then South Africa, still in the throes of Apartheid, was a hot, trendy subject--and here's one of those few novels back when I was in high school from a South African already considered a classic (It was published in 1948), short enough to be dealt with by a bunch of teens impatient with the page, and on Important Themes (tm). But it wasn't just the lack of quotation marks--it was also what should have been bracketed by them. I found the dialogue flat and repetitive and lacking in personality. I felt the word "umfundisi" pounded into my ears. As was the phrase "which is not a thing that is lightly done," which as one reviewer pointed out, is usually used after a white person has condescended to be decent to a black person. And yes, Paton's preachiness, his didacticism annoyed me, as did the continual lauding of the Noble (Liberal) White Man. And I say this being far from politically correct, and I become annoyed certainly when writers emphasize how EVIL white people are in the services of their agenda. So if I got irritated... I get Paton is writing about the importance of forgiveness, especially as a Christian. I also know he practiced what he preached, and he was active in fighting Apartheid; which--to echo Paton--is not a thing that is lightly done. But no, this just doesn't sing to me.”
“I can certainly see why this is a classic. It's deep, heartfelt and extremely moving. I have the print copy but also listened to it on audio, which I found to be a little tedious. The narrator speaks too slowly and enunciates every single syllable. Reading it in print would, I think, be a better experience.”Trish wrote this review Tuesday, August 20, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“One of my all time favourites”Linda Whitfield wrote this review Wednesday, July 24, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Beautiful, poetic, moving, sad. The view of South Africa during apartheid that Paton paints is one of struggle, of roiling discontent, and of possibility. The air, the soil, the clouds come to life, as does the supreme conflict between modernization of tribal cultures and the disinterest of the modernizing influence in promoting a tenable vehicle for cultural evolution.
“Had this as a set work book. Decided to dip back into it. There are sections in the book that are as valid today as they were in 1948 when the book was published. "Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much."”Andrew wrote this review Sunday, March 24, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This novel is a prose-poem which captures a snapshot of South Africa during the crushing grip of apartheid. The narrative follows the story of elderly Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo who goes to Johannesburg in search of his sick sister, long lost brother, and missing son. He finds all his relatives living in much changed circumstances but none more tragic than his son, Absalom, who has been arrested for the worst crime imaginable: killing a white man.
Haunting, lyrical, memorable. A sad song of a beautiful country. ”