I read this book for history class, and I could not put it down! The style of punctuation was distracting at first, but the story soon drew me in. The main character is a totally real person, with real emotions and struggles. Honestly, this book made me a bit emotional, in a good way. The story is heartbreaking. However, the end was the climax of the story in so many ways. It was so bittersweet! My favorite part was the humanness, the brokenness, and the honesty of all the characters. Each of them was a person, a real person, with thoughts and feelings and motivations. In the story, (as in life) God used fragile vessels to carry healing and influence. A powerful story, and one that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
I'd heard the book referred to as "beautiful" and wasn't expecting much, especially since the dashes rather than quotation marks being used for dialogue seemed pretentious at first. Having finished the book, I can honestly say that "beautiful" really is the best word for this remarkable book, which shows more than in any other story I've read the beauty and brokenness that exist side by side in a fallen world. The author doesn't shy away from tough questions and hard circumstances, and some of these remain unresolved at the book's end, but because it is openly acknowledged, God's grace shines through more fully than it could in any book of the same sort written in today's cultural climate. The characters are very human and relatable, especially Kumalo and Msimangu, who are as they say they are (and as I am too): weak and sinful, but God put his hands on them. All is not lost, but what is lost deserves to be mourned. There is tragedy and yet there is hope. Great things can be done for the little valley, but there are other little valleys with nothing being done for them. No human knows the reason for everything that happens, but there is a God who can be trusted.
A wonderful book with a timeless message. Love, compassion and gentleness is the answer to the hatred and fear. A must read for all especially our young ones
Selected for the Logan Central Tuesday Book Club in 2016. For a full list of 2016 selections, see the Logan Central Tuesday Book Club list.
The blurb says that this is a 'deeply moving' book. Certainly, it is a dramatic account of South Africa in the 1940s. While no radical, Paton is clear that it is the white minority which has condemned the native races to a life of neglect and haphazard exploitation. The full horrors of Apartheid have yet to kick in.
The one safe haven in the book is a rural area , Ndotsheni. There Zulu people live ordered, respectable lives. However, the state is indifferent to their primitive agricultural practices, the poor returns for their labour and the misery of their lives.
The central character, an elderly priest - or umfundisi - , Stephen Kumalo, leaves Ndotsheni for Johannesburg to rescue his much younger sister, Gertrude, his son, Absalom (and other family members of whose existence he is scarcely aware) from the sordid, violent world of the big city. Before Absalom can be reached, he kills Arthur Jarvis, a white man, a native of Ndotsheni, who has succeeded in Johannesburg and done all that one person can to ameliorate the lives of the Negroes.
Just as Dickens thought that the salvation of Victorian industrial workers would be widespread Christian charity, so does Paton suggest that action on the part of white liberals will lead to improvement of the Negroes' lot. The
one example of Negroes being pro-active is when they stage a bus boycott because the ticket prices charged are so exorbitant. Even here, it is prosperous whites, acting as unpaid taxi drivers, who give this action a chance of success.
The individual whites who appear in the story are, in almost all cases, decent people. There is one racial rant and that is by the dead man's father-in-law. The one somewhat questionable person is Stephen's brother, John, a black man with a silver tongue, a would-be politician who, because he has succeeded so well in the capitalist society, is always restrained in his rhetoric.
Although Kumalo remains a central figure in the second part of the novel, a large part is paid by Arthur's taciturn father, James. Having been converted from hostility to support by his son's writings, James facilitates the improvement of his black neighbours' agricultural techniques. But it his grandson, a bright child devoid of racial prejudice, who provides hope that South Africa may one day provide prosperity to all its people.
The dialogue is deceptively simple - throughout there are expressions "Stay well, my son" and "Go well, umfundisi" - but, on occasion, the characters' words are powerful. Especially impressive is Arthur's treatise on race relations, which doubtless reflects the views of the author.
I first came upon this book in my youth. Much later in life, I still find it a good read.
I have read this book a number of times. I have also lived in Africa. Perhaps that is why this book 'speaks' to me. It is beautifully written and in my opinion accurately portrays the culture of the time. It also deals with large human themes - love, loyalty, betrayal, forgiveness.
1948 classic set in South Africa, still rings true today. Small-town pastor goes to Johannesburg to find his son, who has committed a crime – murder of a white man.
Read for book club (2/2011). Pre-Apartheid South Africa where the lives of two fathers intertwine, tragically. I probably did not find this as moving as a lot of others because I have read so much about the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. and read other books that address similar issues earlier in my life, so those books stuck with me and affected me more than this one. Given when it was written and the issues it addresses though I can definitely see why it is classified as a classic novel. Also, the dashes for dialogue drove me bonkers.
Forty years ago I journeyed with a backpack through South Africa and, on returning, read Paton's book. It is a moving depiction of blacks and whites trying to co-exist in apartheid South Africa. Cry, the Beloved Country rang true with what I saw, and told the story in a wonderfully written book.
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