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4.3 out of 5 stars72
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Getting involved in this and moving along with it was surprisingly leaden; I didn't think it would be such a demanding, long, `heavy' read or as terribly grim and sad as it turned out to be. The short sentences, the lack of punctuation, and the simplicity of the text were, for me, sometimes tedious rather than engaging. It felt like reading miles of Dr. Seuss. Or, probably more intentionally, the chapters and verses of The Holy Bible.

The book was written in 1946; and fiction, even that based on fact, has altered so much since then. Alan Paton was a forward thinking man of his time, a Liberal politician, a racial and environmental campaigner and philosopher as well as a writer. He used the fame and fortune gained by writing Cry the Beloved Country to live the rest of his life as he wished. He pays tribute to the positive effect the book had on his life in the forewords.

I know it is a classic and we read it at school in the sixties. Then it was `cool' to be Anti Apartheid and to hold righteous strong views. Sanctions such as not buying South African fruit and other SA produce were usual but high-minded assertions were obviously never tested in the way they would have been if we had actually lived in the country. To be seen reading Cry the Beloved Country would show you were a deeper thinker, someone interested in the rest of the world and the way it was run. The racial politics of South Africa were for everyone to criticise but few, apart from people like Alan Paton, truly understood the whys and wherefores.

If you see this as a beautiful poem, then that is a gift. I was bothered by the first two sentences that each used the overused word `lovely'. The repetitive use of the same paragraphs over made me wonder if they were misprints. Yes, from time to time I found myself caught up with the lilt, the speech patterns, the swing and the sway when I did, and then I could see what the fuss was all about.

The kindness of strangers, the innocence of a good man, and the ease with which he can be tricked on arrival in the big city, all these bitter sweet stories shine through the text. The debilitating sympathy and embarrassment felt by Kumalo when he confronts Jarvis Senior unexpectedly made me shiver. The story follows many paths including having a firm knowledge of place, sometimes stepping over the lines of accepted decent behaviour, hands reaching out to the stricken in the most dire of circumstances, lectures given to women who are `careless', the hope and need of children, young people who must trust attach themselves to others for safety.

The plot reminded me of the recent book `The Good Father. There again a father has to come to terms with his son killing an important man who might have been a great hope for his country's future. Again the father has to accept the inevitable execution of his son. The strongest of stories to write about and the thought of which conveys the deepest fear.

For me the theme of Stephen Kumalo and his lesser mentioned, two dimensional, wife having to face up to their son's dreadful crime was the most tenderly written - the way that the father of the victim was the important white neighbour of the pastor made for the most difficult of positions for both men to emerge creditably from and yet, wonderfully, they did. This behaviour was so admirable that for me it was the star part of the book.

I read the low star rating reviews to contrast with the many five star reviews. Many other readers find the book difficult to get into, being written in an almost biblical fashion with little explanation and so much forlorn misery. Having also read Disgrace and Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood][ [[ASIN:0141033185 I Dreamed of Africa I have a reasonable feel for the times there over the last fifty years, through reading. The Number One Ladies Detective Agency does have the same knack for capturing clear dialect spoken. Later on a whim I ordered Cry The Beloved Country [DVD] It was made in the early 1950's, is in black and white but crisp, bright and steady to watch, I found it to be very helpful in understanding more of how the country looked then and the way people spoke, their manners etc. Seeing the film made me appreciate the book more. Alan Paton closely was involved with producing it so it is sound and true.

I realise that I am not so aware of how things are more recently so look forward to finding out more from those who have been there lately. It was a great choice for our book club to revisit and I am glad to have read it again as a much older and perhaps wiser reader. When I was young it opened my eyes to the problems of racism and now it makes me think more deeply about living with the consequences of a mad impulsive action.
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on 14 August 2015
Bought as a gift. Recipient loved it.
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on 18 November 2015
Fantastic book - will read again
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on 25 December 2015
Just as good as it ever was
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on 5 August 1998
This novel by Paton is probably the most important novel in the history of South Africa because it opened the eyes of many in the world about the hardships and the cruelities of South Africa. Without this book South Africa may have not went through the renaissance that it went through in the early 90s. But I gotta admit it is one of the boring novels out there.
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on 1 May 2006
'Cry, the beloved country' is a beautiful book about discrimination of black people. It is situated in South Africa in 1948. It is written from different viewpoints, so you can accept the role that you like the most. The landscape has been described splendidly. The story never stops, however many personages appear and that do not simplify it.
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on 20 June 1998
An overly sympathetic view of apartheid in South Africa, this poorly written book proves that philosophers should remain philosophers, and not writers. For the majority of this book, Stephen Kumalo merely whines and moans about his misfortunes and while providing a true insight on the suffering of Africans, proves to be frustrating to an avid reader. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand and appreciate the messages conveyed by Paton, yet his style of writing tries my patience. Furthermore, his abandonment of quotation marks is an annoyance. Those who read for enlightenment rather than pleasure will appreciate this book.
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on 25 January 2013
My book group loved this book and I have passed this on to a friend. Would recommend this as a good read
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on 9 August 2010
An excellent, honest story of heartache on both sides of Apartheid. A must read for everyone.
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on 4 May 1999
While the plot has a good basis, it is very slow and dull. Basically, the philosophy of the Afrikaners could have been established in less than a page, instead of constantly "quoting" passages written by civil rights leaders. The main character's struggle, while both real and symbolic, is one that is established, but not resolved. Inspires some thought, but not great.
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