Book Review: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

07 August 2012

Another book that I was required to read over summer break. Another volume at which I stared daggers every time it forced me to put down my beloved Count of Monte Cristo. Another paperback that was carried around wherever I went, in the hopes I would finish just a few pages in the van, but was sadly ignored because the topic was so dull to me. And then, another book that I was forced to devour in sixty-page bites in a matter of days because of the fast-approaching deadline. I was close to my end goal, of course . . . but did I like it? Certainly not.

And then, as proof that God really does have a sense of humor, it turned out to be one of those few books that made me weep buckets at the end. Remember the rule about not judging books by their covers? *ahem* Apparently I still haven't learned my lesson.

Cry, the Beloved Country
By Alan Paton
*Summary via Goodreads.com

"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 valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much."

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.

My Thoughts: Because of the limited, brief dialogue, I formed the fast opinion that this book was flat and dull. But what I took for mundanity is really the beauty of Paton's prose. This novel is lyrical, a never-ending song that is not just contained within these three-hundred pages, but has been playing far before the beginning of the novel and continues on long after the closing words. The summary above hardly does it justice. Cry, the Beloved Country is a tale of tragedy, a tale of fathers and sons, a warning, a lament. It hardly reaches a point of joy, and yet the words and story are intermingled with such beauty that it tears at your heart.

CBC tells the story of Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, who goes to Johannesburg and is corrupted there by immoral society. It tells the story of James Jarvis, a prosperous white farmer who barely understands his son Arthur's interest in native Africans' rights. At the heart of it, it is the story of South Africa, a story of that beloved country's heart-wrenching cry during a not so beautiful time in its history. Perhaps the most commendable part of CBC is that it neither praises the white man's dominance nor honors the protesting black men. Both have the ability to act morally and upright, if they so choose, but both can just as easily be ruined by greed or the desire for vengeance. 

Pros: It's one of the most amazing, beautiful, and tragic stories I've ever read. I essentially listed all the pros above — in fact, there's very little to dislike about this novel. Stephen Kumalo is a perfect example of how Christians are meant to live. He doesn't just preach the Word; he truly lives his faith. Repeatedly, he draws strength through prayer, reading the Bible, and crying out to the Lord. 

Cons: The story is so tragic and heartbreaking that it can be difficult to read at times. I believe there are a few mild swear words, but not enough to cause worry. A young girl becomes pregnant out of wedlock, and prostitution is briefly mentioned, though not in detail. All in all, it's certainly a book for mature readers.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 14+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
“But there is only one thing that has power completely, and this is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power.” ― Cry, the Beloved Country
P.S. Don't forget to guess where I'll be stopping on my blog tour tomorrow!

3 epistles:

  1. I had to read this book for school as well. I found it very dull, and difficult to get into, though I found the message interesting I just wish that the author had found a better way to say it.

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  2. I had to read this book for school, I remember not liking it but I want to re-read it now!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your view on Cry, the Beloved Country. My family actually owns this book, but no one has ever read it. I would really like to, especially after reading what you wrote. Sounds like one of those epic books that will stay in your memory banks for a long time to come.

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