Dec 07, 10
Read in December, 2010
This novel is set in South Africa in 1946 just after the end of WWII. Cumalo, an aging black Anglican Priest in a rural village some distance from Johannesburg has just received a letter advising that his sister who lives in Johannesburg is ill and in need of his help. Cumalo determines to go, and while there, look for his son Absolon who also left for Johannesburg some time before. Cumalo has never received a letter from either his sister or his son. Upon arriving at the great city (for the first time in his life), Cumalo observes a very different life style among the whites and the blacks. The blacks are oppressed with many caught up in drugs, alcohol, prostitution, theivery, etc. and the whites are seeking their fortunes in the gold mines or other commercial activities. Tribal life in the rural villages is deteriorating as the blacks flock to the mines and the cities and abandon their fields and rural culture. The whole country is in a state of dynamic change. Yet, in Johannesburg Cumalo encounters many whites who sincerely desire to help the blacks and who devote their life's efforts to that cause. He also encounters many blacks, filled with hate and anger. After much seeking, Cumalo finds his son under tragic circumstances which dramatically alter Cumalo's life. He returns to his village with much sadness, yet with great hope. He has faith in man's ability to work together for their mutual good. The author Alan Paton has written a very engaging novel which touches your very heart-strings. His literary style is somewhat unusual. Spoken words often carry a cadence reminescent of an Africa we might imagine. He describes a period in Africa (mid 1940s) when Apartheid is just becoming established, despite the efforts of many whites and blacks who detest it and desire a country where mutual regard and cooperation among the races is the norm. Paton has written a great piece of historical fiction which describes a changing period of history in South Africa. I highly recommend the book.