Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cry, The Beloved Country - Alan Paton

Summary: An immediate worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1948, Alan Paton's impassioned novel about a black man's country under white man's law is a work of searing beauty. Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man. (Summary from the back of the book and image from

My Review: This book had many great themes about redemption, hate/love, sin, history, race, language, learning, to name a few. It was a nice look into South African history although it stops short because of the date it was finished--the author couldn't know how things would take a turn for the worst. The characters and the outcomes of their decisions were painted perfectly true to life. They have vices, moments of weakness, self indulgence, and internal torment and also heart-warming compassion and charity.

There are two quotes I felt exceptionally compelling and sum up the message of the book nicely:
"In the deserted harbour there is yet water that laps against the quays. In the dark and silent forest there is a leaf that falls. Behind the polished panelling the white ant eats away the wood. Nothing is ever quiet, except for fools." page 224
"I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving they will find we are turned to hating. Oh, the grave and sombre words." page 311

What I couldn't get past was the punctuation--or the lack thereof. Dialogue punctuation is too important not to all. For me that really took away from the book. I disliked having to go back and count the number of lines above to figure out who was saying what after a while. Annoying. It was a one time read, one I'm glad I read.

Rating: 3.5 stars The punctuation lowered this rating, otherwise it would probably be 4.5.

In a phrase: A realistic history of the people of South Africa.


Kari said...

I forgot to mention this book is on many AP summer reading lists (for the high school my students feed into it's on their summer reading list before 9th grade) and college required reading lists. Our book group decided to read it.

mormonhermitmom said...

I didn't know about it until after I got out of college, but I loved it. The punctuation was hard to get around, but the story more than made up for it for me.

Lisa said...

Oh, I think I would have a problem with the punctuation thing as well. It sounds like if I pick it up, I'm going to have to plan to read it when things are quite around here.

Kari said...

I'd heard it about it earlier, but it was never required. But you're right: the story makes it worth it.

Heather said...

I'm sorry the punctuation was such an obstacle for you. I listened to it on tape the first time I "read" it, so I fell completely in love with the story, the characters, and the lyricism of the prose, without the inconvenience of punctuation, and I've since reread it several times without even noticing the unconventional dialogue punctuation. As you know it's one of my all-time favorites-- such a melding of poetry and redemption is rare in my experience of books-- so of course I have to speak up for it! :)

Anonymous said...

I was so caught up in the story and beautiful prose I didn't even notice the punctuation (or lack thereof). This is a must read book in my opinion. I believe it approached a difficult subject with grace and sensitivity, bringing understanding to both sides of the racial divisions. Loved it.


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