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Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

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The novel, Cry the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, is an exceptional book. It takes place in South Africa during the 1940's. A priest, or umfundisi, named Stephen Kumalo, receives a letter regarding that his sister Gertrude in Johannesburg is very ill and needs his help immediately. In Johannesburg, along with finding Gertrude and has her go back to his home in Ndotsheni, he finds his brother, a very successful businessman and politician, and begins his quest in finding his son, Absalom, who he has not heard from in years. After finally locating his son, he learns that his son has been at a reformatory and has impregnated his girlfriend. Not long after, Kumalo finds out that the police are searching for Absalom for murdering Arthur Jarvis, a famous white man pushing for racial justice. Absalom admits it to Kumalo, and then had court trials. During his trials, Kumalo meets and befriends James Jarvis, Arthur Jarvis' father, and meets with Absalom's girlfriend. Kumalo and Absalom's girlfriend agree for a marriage between the two.
When the trial is over, the jury ruled that Absalom would get the death penalty. Kumalo heads home and then realizes that his sister escaped. But Jarvis, whose farm overlooks Kumalo's village, decides to help the village out more, like trying to build a dam, donating milk, and hiring professionals to teach the village people how to farm more effectively. On the day of Absalom's execution, Kumalo goes to the mountains to pray and he meets Jarvis there, and they talk for a while. When they are done, Kumalo cries and prays.
This book was overall pretty well written. It is fictional but racial injustice and segregation did take place during in South Africa in the 1940's, when this book was written and took place in. The author made it very realistic. The characterization was very well because the characters fit the roles perfectly. South Africa has many blacks and whites (of British descent), and this book contained both types of characters. Many younger South Africans would migrate to Johannesburg to escape from their old tribal villages, and several different younger characters did that. The writing style was decent because the dialect fit the roles of the characters, but the author made the book hard to read at times. South Africans, especially priests, speak very proper and sincerely, and the characters spoke this way. But, the book was, at times, hard to understand who was speaking. Instead of using quotation marks and using words to describe what was being said (example: “hello” said Stephen Kumalo), only dashes were used. But other than that, the book was very well written.
This book's themes and concerns relate fairly well to the present world. This book's themes are reconciliation between fathers, inequality and injustice, and Christianity and injustice. Today, many sons run away from their families, but it is not as much of a major issue in this setting, South Africa, because the world is far more modernized than it was in the 1940's. Young people escaping from their villages to modern cities like Johannesburg is not as common as it was then. But there is plenty of discrimination, segregation, injustice, and Christianity today everywhere in the world.
Overall, I would give this novel four and a half stars out of five. It was a very interesting and well written book, and I highly recommend it. I would recommend this book for anybody from high school and above.





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