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Publisher's Summary

This is the most distinguished novel that has come out of South Africa in the 20th century, and it is one of the most important novels that has appeared anywhere in modern times. Cry, the Beloved Country is in some ways a sad book; it is an indictment of a social system that drives native races into resentment and crime; it is a story of Fate, as inevitable, as relentless, as anything of Thomas Hardy's. Beautifully wrought with high poetic compassion, Cry, the Beloved Country is more than just a story, it is a profound experience of the human spirit. And beyond the intense and insoluble personal tragedy, it is the story of the beautiful and tragic land of South Africa, its landscape, its people, and its bitter racial ferment and unrest.

Public Domain (P)1993 Blackstone Audiobooks

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  • Overall

History With a Human Face

Alan Paton does a tremendous job of describing 1950's Apartheid S. Africa from a simple Zulu man's perspective. I found the story line to be intriguing and the narration to be outstanding.
I will admit, Mr Paton's voice was at first difficult to listen to, but his ability to accent the English, Afrikaans and Zulu characters provided great depth to the narration and made the book truly engaging.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Cry The Beloved Country

Any additional comments?

Cry The Beloved Country is written by Alan Paton and narrated by Michael York. The unabridged audiobook is close to ten hours of listening.

The story isn’t what I expected. It is not a soapbox rant about the Apartheid. In fact, Apartheid is not mentioned. Keep in mind this book was published in 1948; Apartheid wasn’t formally enforced by the government of South Africa until 1948. Although racial segregation is present, it is similar to that of the United States prior to the American Civil War. Acknowledged, accepted, a way of life, and there exists a quiet undercurrent of needed change. In fact, a hero of a Cry The Beloved Country character is Abraham Lincoln. According to the characters of this book, many people, black and white, are opposed to the separateness and financial inequities. The abhorrent poverty of blacks was an abomination given the mining wealth of South Africa, and there were many, including powerful whites, that knew change was needed and inevitable.

This is the background of Cry The Beloved Country. A black man goes on trial for the murder of a white man. This simple plot is the foundation of Paton’s exploration into familial bonds, deep friendships, loyalties, and of course, the upcoming winds of change in South Africa.

The locale of South Africa was the reason, I believe, that Michael York was a choice for narration, given his accent. There is difficulty however, with regard to any changes in the voices of individual characters, particularly noticeable in authenticity of ethnicity. There is no change in the voice when different characters are speaking, men or women, adults or children, blacks or whites. York simply reads the story aloud. For me this takes a bit from the story, in that I was completely unfamiliar with it other than to be aware that Cry The Beloved Country is highly rated and admired. Until Paton explicitly identifies him as so, I had no idea the main character, Reverend Kumalo, was a black man. This is a narration problem, in my opinion. Beyond this, pace and tempo are fine, a decent production.

If you’re looking for an angst-ridden racially motivated diatribe, this book is not for you. If you are interested in a very thought provoking look at 1948-pre-apartheid South Africa, this book is excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Bar-none the best audio book I've ever listened to...

...or expect to listen to. I've listened to many audiobooks and out of those could list several favourites. But this beats them all. Michael York is perfect, matching the humanity, gravity, and poetry of the words. The story is both gut wrenching and life affirming. It is honest about the darkness of life while showing hope where true hope is found.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Third time broke the spell

This is the 3rd time I have read this book. I read it twice in the 90s and loved loved loved it! I had passages memorized and I recommended it to everyone who read books. This time, I listened to it and it just started dawning on me that this book, while beautifully written, is not to be praised without qualification.

This is a story mostly about 2 fathers (one white and one black) and their 2 sons. The fathers live in a small village and their sons have both gone to Johannesburg. Their lives soon intersect and the story swirls back and forth between the two fathers' perspectives.

The way it is told is poetic, eloquent, poignant. Here is my favorite passage from the book:

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 not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.

Paton, Alan (2003-11-25). Cry, the Beloved Country (p. 101). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

BUT (and this ruined it for me this time around) (I don't know what I was thinking the first two times - it's why I started listening to books - reading them, I remember almost nothing.)

Most of the black characters are either criminals, corrupt politicians, whores, or bootleggers, and the two that are presented in a positive light are parsons. All of the white people are good, kind, and magnanimous, stopping to give rides to black people, providing milk for poor black children, building new churches for black congregations, and paying for teachers to teach the poor blacks how to farm their land. Gag me.

I don't want to give away any of the plot, but black children are glossed over like scenery, while the white child in the book is referred to a having a "brightness" about him, even by Kumalo, the black parson who takes in his sister's child, but pretty much just ignores him. Black girls are reprimanded for their "careless laughter" and expected to be "quiet and obedient." Kumalo was described by the white man, Jarvis as being "humble and well-mannered" because he dropped his eyes, went down the steps, and sat down trembling upon Jarvis' arrival. When Kumalo dropped his hat, Jarvis picked it up and "held the hat carefully for it was old and dirty."

There's more, but you get the point. That sort of stuff is hard to read without wanting to shake the author and scream, "What the what??" But, it was 1948 when it was published, and the author did fight against apartheid, so maybe the book helped stir up some awareness of the injustice of it all. One character in the book does say, "it was the white man who gave us so little land, it was the white man who took us away from the land to go to work. And we were ignorant also. It is all these things together that have made this valley desolate. Therefore, what this good white man does is only a repayment." but he is soundly admonished by Kumalo. But then Kumalo does admit to himself that he has been called "the white man's dog" but doesn't know any other way to live and is too old to learn.

So all that said, it is beautifully written and I'm glad I read it again after all these years. But I don't think I'll be reading it again, and I won't be recommending it anymore without qualification.

The narration was absolutely perfect!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Classic

Rich story. Very insightful on the political history of a region.

Was recommended by a friend, did not disappoint. I recommend it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • david
  • Pretoria, South Africa
  • 04-12-14

Narrator a shocker

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I couldn't even listen to the whole book, as the narrators voice was so annoying, and it is insulting to the author, when you don't take the time or effort to learn how to pronounce words from the vernacular of the country correctly

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The Narrator Made a Great Book Unforgetable

Any additional comments?

This has been one of the most moving audible experiences I have ever had. I am sure that Cry, the Beloved Country was on my high school reading list for extra credit. I may have even read it or started to. I have no memory of it.
On the page, the simple, quiet Zulu way of speaking must have looked boring to these inexperienced eyes. It is told from the point of view of a rural father in search of his son gone to the big city in the era of South African apartheid. I probably could not relate at all at 17. What a revelation it has been to me now. I now appreciate the artistry of the writing, the clarity of feeling, the heartbreak of all involved. It is a masterpiece brought to life by Michael York beyond anything my mind could have created, even now, left to it's own devices.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Transported me to a place & time

What does Michael York bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I love Michael York. Excellent reader. I felt like I was listening to different characters - each had his own voice, & each was perfect. The rhythm of Mr. York's voice invoked Africa in a way I wouldn't have been able to hear if I'd read the book myself.

Any additional comments?

I've heard of this title for a long time. Now I can't believe I've taken so long to read/listen to it. I'm recommending it to others. The writing is so perfect; the story & the setting & the characters just transported me to a place I've never been, but now I feel like I have been there. The feeling of the characters came through so strongly, in a very real & human way without being overdone. I can't say enough about this experience. Thank you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Slow moving, lyrical and profound 1948 Classic

“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again.” Alan, Paton.
The novel is a series of conversations and interactions as Stephen Kumalo a native village priest goes into Johannesburg to find missing family and friends from the village. The world of South Africa, the thoughts, beliefs, problems and challenges of many of the different groups are shared. I imagine impatient readers would hate this book as it slowly and symbolically unwinds... but I personally loved it. I saw and felt much of the symbolism, but honestly a peek at Cliff Notes helped me understand even more. Oprah has a web page about the book. Nelson Mandela calls it "a monument to the future." For me it belongs on a book "everyone should read once" list.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved this Beloved Book

The movie was beautiful - the book is sublime.

Paton wrote a fable, cautionary tale about the destruction of "the beloved country" by destroying tribes and implementing a racial descrimination system that later would become apartheid.

Beautiful example of how people of different background can have epiphanies and open their hearts in the face of horrible darkness and tragedy Two neighbors from rural South African lives are brought together when one's son kills the other man's son. The main characters are a black Anglican Priest (Stephen Kumalo), and a rich white farmer (Arthur Jarvis). Through lessons they learned, Kumalo by seeing lives destroyed in Johannesburg, and Jarvis reading the writings of his son, who was an activist for fair treatment and equality for blacks, these two men come together to start what could be the healing of this country.

Michael York's narration made this book even more incredible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful