What can I say? A beautiful book, beautifully narrated by Michael York.
"Sofeeeyatown"??????? Its pronounced SoFIYA town" with the accent on the FIYA and veld is not like a gentle [s]velte m'dear but FELT! agge nee. fIRE AND fELT, this is Africa!
Book Blogger and Planetary Defense Commander
When I got this book, I assumed it would be just an account of atrocities, and although the book could be classified as a tragedy, that's not its whole point. There are many characters who are positive role models dealing with difficult circumstances.
I was also surprised to learn to what extent modern South Africa's problems existed when this book was written.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
This is unquestionably a powerful book. Stephen Kumalo is one of the great literary protagonists. You cannot but help bonding with him immediately. Thanks to him, I can overlook other aspects of the book. What starts out looking like it could be South Africa's "To Kill a Mockingbird" ends up being closer to South Africa's "The Jungle". Paton alternates the main Kumalo story with passages of journalistic prose, as well as an attempt to set up a secondary protagonist. I can understand why. His main story simply isn't big enough to fill a novel. But Kumalo is such a great character that the parts without him are such a letdown. Still, the book is just the right length for what Paton has to say. Paton makes an effort to stay even-handed throughout. That is, every character feels true to his own beliefs. That said, there are a few places where it feels like he has stacked the deck in his favor, and that's all I'm going to say about that.
What I found most compelling about the book is the universal message it has to tell about a society in transition. How people respond when traditional ways are under attack and no new societal institutions have been developed to take their place. It's something that people in every country can relate to. And South Africa's situation simply puts it into a perspective that makes it clear to all of us.
Some other reviewers have complained about Michael York's narration. I have my own issues with him. He tends to drift into a sing-song pattern sometimes that makes the book sound like it was intended for children. But when he gets engrossed in the important parts of the book, he does just fine. And while he has been lambasted for his pronunciations, it is interesting that no one has criticized him for any of the words that a non-South African would definitely need help with.
I read this book when it first came out, and listened to it on audio recently. It moved me just as much now as it did then. The narrator is easily understood and makes the occasional Zulu words sound easy.
I only listened to this book because it was an Oprah book pick. I?m glad I did. The story weaves back and forth and really comes together at the end. You see the story of two families at opposing ends of the same situation and at opposite ends of South African societal privilege. It sounded like an older recording, but was still palatable.
This is my favorite book of all time, and I've read it many, many times. I thought I'd enjoy hearing it read, but his reading seemed all wrong . . . very casual, very British-upper-class . . . like he himself was bored with the book. (Maybe I wanted/expected a more "African" voice?) Anyway, I didn't enjoy it, and the problem was not the book itself, because believe me-- I love this book. I guess the reader just didn't match the voice in my head.
First: Michael York's narration is spectacular. I have begun reading this novel many times (didn't read it in high school -- though it was required!)but was never able to move past the first chapter. Listening to York's voicing of the characters, especially the 'character' of the land of South Africa, was captivating. Second: The beauty and lyricism of Paton's writing, reflect the simple, honest truth of the characters and the times they are living through. York's narration sets a perfect tempo and is nuanced and evocative. LISTEN TO THIS BOOK -- It is a classic that has been brought to life for me and it will remain indelibly imprinted in my heart; on yours, also, is my wish. Go well.
I was drawn in by the story and couldn't stop listening ot this book! The narration is wonderful, the voices of the different characters are done very differently. LOVED it!