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Cry, the Beloved Country

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  71,988 ratings  ·  4,236 reviews
Cry, the Beloved Country, the most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller 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, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him n
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published November 25th 2003 by Scribner (first published 1948)
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Kiara Maharaj "Cry, the beloved country" means that our country should mourn as the land is dying and people are losing their morals, turning to crime and becoming …more"Cry, the beloved country" means that our country should mourn as the land is dying and people are losing their morals, turning to crime and becoming corrupt. The subtitle "A story of comfort in desolation" refers to one of the characters, Khumalo. Throughout his stay in Johannesburg, he faces many problems which makes him feel alone. This is the "desolation". But there were other people who supported him, and helped him face these problems. This is the "comfort". Hence, "comfort in desolation".(less)

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Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Alan Paton - image from The South African - photo by Terence Spencer

This is a classic, written by a white South African about a time before apartheid. Two fathers, one white, one black and their sons. It is stylistically unusual. Quotes are not used, for example. Conversation is indicated by leading dashes. Also the speech is quite formal most of the time, which conveys some of the culture of the place, I expect. Dark forces are abroad, but hope shows its face here as well, as there are leaders
A few years ago, after twenty years out of high school, I made a point to start rereading all of the classics assigned to me in school. It has been an arduous yet uplifting task as I have experienced these classic books again through an adult mind. In this the third year that I am participating in classics bingo, I took the opportunity to revisit another high school book for the classic of the 20th century square. Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country seventy years later is still considered the ...more
John Wiswell
Jun 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: African issues readers, historical readers, modern classics readers, humanitarian readers
This isn't an infinitely quotable book, but occasionally it produces a line that is devastatingly clear and true. Lines like, "It was not his habit to dwell on what could have been, but what could never be." and, “It is the duty of a judge to do justice, but it is only the people who can be just.” made me put the book down and stare dumbfounded at the wall. But mostly this isn't a highly quotable book; it's a beautifully written, riveting book where passages or entire halves of scenes are compel ...more
This is the story of South Africa, and it is the story of two fathers and two sons. There is a moment in which the fathers meet face-to-face that contains everything there is of humanity and the struggle for understanding and compassion in men. That moment left me eviscerated.

I love that this is not written in the spirit of good vs. evil, but in the spirit of man vs. his baser instincts. I sincerely loved Stephen Kumalo and Mr. Jarvis, and I felt both their heartaches. Some books are meant to b
Ahmad Sharabiani
Cry, The Beloved Country, Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country is a novel by Alan Paton, published in 1948.
In the remote village of Ndotsheni, in the Natal province of eastern South Africa, the Reverend Stephen Kumalo receives a letter from a fellow minister summoning him to Johannesburg. He is needed there, the letter says, to help his sister, Gertrude, who the letter says has fallen ill. Kumalo undertakes the difficult and expensive journey to the city in the hopes of aiding Gertrude and of fin
I am a teacher and, after 34 years, attempt to find new combinations in the catalogue of "must reads." I have done this as a staple for years. Last year, when deciding what I wanted to do - kind of like window shopping for lovely clothes -- I decided to read this book after reading Hamlet. I love the mirrored plot structure. I adore the fact that the land is a character. The moral imperative and subsequent hemming and hawing in Hamlet takes on a different light and life in the beautifully wrough ...more
Apr 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cant say enough about this book. It is lyrically written, reads almost like an epic out of Ireland. The dialog between characters is straightforward, and the book manages to give you a glimpse of Apartheid S. Africa, from the richest people, to the poor urban laborers, to the criminals, to the peaceful rural farmers trying to maintain their land after many years of neglect. This is a classic that I have read probably 3 or 4 times.

My copy is beat to hell, but readable.
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful writing, that is why this book gets four stars. But what do I mean by beautiful writing? That can mean so much. Here every sentence is simple. Every thought is simple. It is writing where all words that can be removed are removed. What remains is clear and concise and beautiful. The core is left, and that core says exactly what has to be said.

The book is about Africa, South Africa in particular and racial injustice in this country. It is about right and wrong and men's strengths and we
Marcia Case
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Just when I thought I had a handle on this book, it got really complicated. After getting over the shock of how much South African history and turmoil were skimmed over or ignored completely in my history classes, I felt like this story outlined a pretty clear cut good guy vs an obvious bad guy. My initial thoughts were that the natives were a perfectly content group of people who were just fine on their own until the Europeans stepped in and muddled up their entire culture. I thought Johannesbu ...more
A novel that we read in junior high (in grade nine English, to be exact), Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country was likely the first school-assigned literary classics offering that I truly and with all my heart and soul unreservedly enjoyed reading. And while Cry, the Beloved Country was not exactly an easy reading experience, it was immensely satisfying, intense, emotionally riveting, and personally very much appreciated, as my parents were absolutely horrified and aghast that our English teach ...more
Jun 04, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is one of those classics that I'm glad I read, but will probably never read again. The themes are important (racial equality, morality, forgiveness) and the writing is lyrical, but it's still hard to read. Alan Paton doesn't use any quotation marks. He chooses, instead, to preface each line of dialogue with a dash. I could get used to this technique, if he were consistent with it, but he's not. Sometimes the dialogue is in the middle of a paragraph, with no indication it's spoken aloud ...more
Alan Paton's 1948 novel, Cry the Beloved Country, is a tale that embraces so very many things well beyond the period of Apartheid in South Africa; among them are the power of faith, the resolute strength of family bonds, the capacity for resilience, urban vs. rural environments, the concept of forgiveness & even beyond that, of reconciliation, all of these portrayed within an abiding biblical context.

Amazingly, the novel was written by someone whose life was spent as a teacher, including for 1
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I was supposed to read Cry, the Beloved Country my senior year of high school. But you know how senior year is. Well, I wasn’t like that — promise. I wasn’t one who started slacking because I had my acceptance letter to college in hand. But I did decide that I didn’t really care for English, and that I found my European History class much more fascinating, and thus I spent all my study time pouring over my history textbook instead of my English novels (especially since the in-class discussions w ...more
Ann-Marie "Cookie M."
I read the Reader's Digest Condensed Books version of this when I was 12 or 13, then read the unabridged version around 2008. They might as well have been two different books. ...more
Amal Bedhyefi
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finished reading another amazing classic !
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.
This was a deeply moving/ eye-opener book that will stay with me for a long time.
Paton touches on almost every level of trouble in post-colonial South Africa: racism, classism, elitism, residual imperical feelings, how wealth corrupts natives, arbitrary segregation, the lo
Hai Quan
Sep 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, novel, african
This novel uses South Africa as its background.
The son of the main protagonist, ran away from home and together with two of his friends , entered the house of a white man with a gun with an intention to steal, thinking the owner wasn't home.

However, they were surprised by the owner, who was no less surprised with this encounter.

The gunman , barely a boy, reacted badly, killed said owner.

This protagonist, after much searching for his wayward, vagabond son,only to find him in a terrible predicam
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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."

Stephen Kumalo is a Zulu and a Anglican priest living in a small farming community set aside for the natives. One day he and his wife receive a letter from Johannesburg, urging him to come visit the city because his sister Gertrude needs help. Many people from his tribe have gone to the city and never returned, including his own son, so Stephen sets o
Sep 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People who don't know how to read and just make it up anyways.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Book Concierge
Audiobook narrated by Frederick Davidson.

And old man, a Zulu pastor in a small impoverished South African town, has lost three dear relatives to the big city. His brother, John, has gone to Johannesburg and opened a business. He no longer writes. His much younger sister, Gertrude, took her son to Johannesburg to look for her husband who had gone previously to find work; the husband never wrote, and Gertrude has not written. And finally his son, Absalom, went to Johannesburg to look for his aunt,
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, african, favorites
Had I known what this was about, and had not judged this book by the title (which led me to assume that this would be another depressing commentary on Apartheid), I would have picked it up YEARS ago!

Contrary to what the title suggests, this book highlights the hope in South Africa, even before the dark days of Apartheid really began. It shows forgiveness, and people of different races working together. It does not shy away from the problems: the exploitation of black people who were forced to w
Nandakishore Mridula
This was my first introduction to apartheid South Africa, and oh did it blow me away! Fantastic narrative concentrating on the human dimensions of a political tragedy. Thank God this abominable system is no more.
Daniel Villines
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Other than for violating one of my pet peeves in writing, which is the use of coincidence, this book is nearly perfect for what it conveys. In fact, James Michener wrote nearly 900 pages on South Africa in his The Covenant and at the end of that journey, you are filled with history but have very little feeling as to what it is like to be a native South African. Cry, Beloved Country is the polar opposite of The Covenant. The book is filled with heart, and at times, I felt the soul of Paton’s main ...more
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Aug 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeanette (Ms. Feisty) by: Elisabeth
There are so many layers of meaning in this book. You can't just close it after the last page and say, "Yep, I read it. Here's what it's about..." The story is fairly simply told, almost understated, but you can feel the author's love for his country and its people, warts and all. There's so much to explore here about hope, despair, love, exploitation, forgiveness, and perseverance. My greatest admiration goes to the Jarvis character for the way he deals with his grief and shows his forgiveness ...more
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It is one of my all-time favorites. The author had the beautiful ability to write about the tragedies in South Africa and at the same time interweave a deeply moving story of two fathers having the worst experience of their lives. The gripping sadness of the experience is overshadowed by the love and faith of a father who is just trying to do the right thing. Alan Paton's prose and insight make for an awesome reading experience. I highly recommend this book not only for reading ...more
Barb Middleton
We are moving to South Africa so I thought I had better read this bestseller from 1948. I listened to the audiobook performed by the actor, Michael York. His incredible voice changes helped me visualize the characters; however, I should have read the book as my weakest learning style is auditory and it took me awhile to get the African village names and characters sorted. The Reverend Stephen Kumalo, who lives in Ndotsheni, a village in eastern South Africa, receives a letter saying his sister, ...more
Dec 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more than I did. If I'm awarding star ratings for the books message, then it's 5 stars. However, if I'm honest about how much I enjoyed the reading experience, or how eager I was to pick it up, then I have to admit that I didn't love it. In terms of the story, I cannot fault the book. There is nothing I would change about the plot, all the themes of heartbreak were perfectly placed. There was also inspiration to be found in the end message, which again, was faultless. ...more
Aug 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What an extraordinary book. South Africa first came to my attention in the early 80s, when as a young teen my social consciousness was awakened by the MTV generation shouting "I won't play Sun City". Taking into account all that has occurred from since Paton's gentle prose was penned in the mid 1940s to the glittering showboat of the 1980's rock star protests to today's post-apartheid reality of continued violence and oppression in South Africa, reading this novel was so moving and chilling. How ...more
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Elisabeth by: Maria
This was a deeply moving book that will stay with me for a long time. It falls into the elite category on my bookshelf of "I will read this again and again". I loved Paton's writing style...short, concise sentences and the dialogue written without quotation marks (as well as the social themes in the book) made this very reminiscent of another of my all-time favorites, The Grapes of Wrath. The book looks at themes of equality and social justice in pre-apartheid South Africa from both sides of the ...more
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one that will stay with me.

It defies the descriptors - beautiful, yes, but spare; evocative, yes, but universal; finely wrought, yes, but poured out in one extended cry for justice.

Paton weaves together parallel lives; an odyssey or two (physical and spiritual); lost sheep and prodigals to teach us of place and identity and cultures in a way that haunts and convicts and leads us to do more.

Paton explores ideas of justice, politics, economics, religion, and culture. Sometimes, they
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in high school and loved it for the story. That was in the 1960's when apartheid was in full swing and Mandela was in prison. This time I loved the story (fortunately some of the racial and political problems have been solved) but was also able to appreciate the beautiful, lyrical prose. I have shed many tears while reading this, most in last section of the book, which is the section that brings some hope to the situation in a 1940's South Africa that is pre-apartheid but a coun ...more
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Alan Stewart Paton was born and educated in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. He started his career by teaching at a school in Ixopo where he met and married his first wife. The dramatic career change to director of a reformatory for black youths at Diepkloof, near Johannesburg, had a profound effect on his thinking. The publication of Cry, The Beloved Country (1948) made him one of South Africa's ...more

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“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again.” 226 likes
“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.” 183 likes
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