Classic Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Book Review: “Cry, the Beloved Country”

Rating: 5.6 out of 10.0

Author: Alan Paton

Genre: Historical Fiction [Classic Literature]

About: Cry, the Beloved Country became an immediate worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1948. Since then, Paton has edited it twice; once in 1959 and once in 1987. He died in 1988; one year after his final edit of his masterpiece. Although he wrote many other books in his lifetime, Cry the Beloved Country remains Paton’s most loved.

Likes: This book provides an accurate description of life in South Africa as well as the racial tensions in 20th century South Africa. The characters in this book are not the best, but are still unique in their own way. The main character, Stephen Kumalo, is a pastor who struggles with the shame of a wrecked family. He is clearly presented as good, which is something that is important in any book as well as presenting evil as evil.

Dislikes: This book held more things for me to not enjoy than most other books. Evil was muddled amongst good which led to a warped representation of morality. Crime, violence, and other evil was just accepted as a way of life and very few of the characters sought to fight it. Also, Paton has adopted John Steinbeck’s style of writing; using dashes to mark conversation instead of quotation marks. This makes it very hard to read and understand. In addition to this, the themes are extremely dark and most likely too intense for younger readers.

Summary: Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo journeys to Johannesburg to find his sister and his son. Although he meets many hardships along the way, Kumalo maintains his faith in God. Through a long series of events, Kumalo’s son ends up facing a death sentence. Can Kumalo save his son from being hung?

Book Length: 312 pages (Scribner Edition)

Favorite Character: Stephen Kumalo

Suggested age: 15+

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