An Oprah Winfrey book club suggestion, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, is a lyrical tale of how the lives of both blacks and whites in apartheid South Africa are not as different as one might be conditioned to think. It does not matter how pain and love and grief manifests within ones life, deep down we all share the same profound sense of loss in our hearts when something tragic happens.
Paton’s writing is simple and direct. He doesn’t try to tell the reader how to feel about apartheid by making the plot revolve solely around political matters or by describing anything in extreme, brutal detail. Instead, he writes about the tragedies of families amidst apartheid and how their lives are affected by how people perceive the differences in black culture vs white culture.
Yet men were afraid, with a fear that was deep, deep in the heart, a fear so deep that they hid their kindness, or brought it out with fierceness and anger, and hid it behind fierce and frowning eyes. They were afraid because they were so few. And such fear could not be cast out, but by love.
It was Msimangu who had said, Msimangu who had no hate for any man, I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving they will find we are turned to hating.
I suggest this book to anyone who enjoys simple yet powerful writing. There is a lot of enjoyment to be had in this book despite the heavy subject matter. Paton understands the human condition, both the good and the bad, and he seamlessly uses that knowledge to write a beautiful story that will be hard to forget.