Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cry, the Beloved Country

I've been meaning to read Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, for years and finally did so. It was a profoundly moving novel about South Africa in the late 1940's.  It was beautifully written, lyrical at times, and was a story of unconditional love for a place despite its manifold faults and injustices. It is a story of European imperialism. It is a tragedy. It defines irony. It breaks your heart while giving you faith in human kindness that transcends race and culture, language and religion.

Cry, the Beloved Country is the story of Stephen Kumalo, a Zulu pastor who journeys from his remote village to Johannesburg to find his wayward sister and lost son. There he ultimately finds both, but also finds that he cannot save either. He cannot save his son from the consequences of his actions, and he cannot save his sister from being herself and being herself means she has no place in his family.

I admired how Paton was able to set up so many parallel stories--the two fathers who lose their sons but find new families as they deal with their grief and loss, the brothers who react so differently to the sins of their sons, the two little boys who desperately want to bridge the gulf between the imperial masters and the exploited natives.

It is a powerful and important book not only in that it gives voice to the abject reality of South Africa in the 20th century, but it is a masterpiece of literature.

So glad I decided to read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge, fulfilling the category of Author New to Me. One more book left to read in the challenge for 2018!


  1. I have been meaning to read this also. It sounds good in many ways. The way that fiction dealt with colonialism can be fascinating. It can also yield some tragic stories.

  2. I first heard of this book when I was 12 (so long ago now it's a wonder I remember that!) when a teacher recommended it. I still haven't read it, but it sounds so good I really want to now.

  3. I read this in high school but really should re-visit as a mature reader to re-assess. I remember liking it back then but I read merely because I had to and so I could write a paper on it.

  4. Yeah I haven't read this classic but want to. Sounds more multi-dimensional with the various story lines. Thx for your review

  5. This was one of the classics I read and I absolutely agree with you - what a shame it's not more widely read!