Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

CryCry, the Beloved Country follows Stephen Kumalo, a Zulu parson, on his quest to find his son, following the receipt of a letter in relation to his ill sister. Through this journey Kumalo befriends a fellow parson who aides him in locating his estranged family, as well as providing moral support along the way.

The novel explores themes such as love and power in the tensions of a changing and uncertain country, during the early years of Apartheid. The protagonist is met with kindness, fear and hostility from the various intriguing characters that are introduced throughout his journey.

Following Kumalo on his sojourn, from his first impression of Johannesburg to the thoughtful and exquisite climax, is a heart wrenching experience. We see his character evolve from somewhat naïve to one that is wiser from his experiences.

The book is moving, thought provoking and beautifully written. A must read.

Publisher’s Synopsis

“In the city of Johannesburg a father seeks his delinquent son. His search takes him through a labyrinth of murder, prostitution, racial hatred and, ultimately, reconciliation. First published in 1948, Cry, the Beloved Country addresses the problem of race relations with the scrupulousness of the historian, the sensitivity of the poet, and stands as the single most important novel in twentieth-century South African literature.”

ISBN: 9780099766810

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100 Australian Poems You Need To Know edited by Jamie Grant

 

100-australian-poems-you-need-to-knowThis anthology of poems was compiled by Jamie Grant who has published some 195 poems and worked as a journalist and reviewer.

The anthology consists of one poem from each of his chosen authors and includes a short biography on each author at the end of the book. The collection includes verse from well-known Australian writers such as Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson and Dorothea Mackellar but also includes a delightful array of more obscure entrants.  Many of the included writers contributed work for The Bulletin, Australia’s longest running magazine.

There are many humorous poems, such as ‘My Other Chinese Cook’ by James Brunton Stephens, and even a reference to a Harry Potter, well before JK Rowling brought one to fame (‘Taking the Census’ by Charles Harpur).  The variety of works cover an array of topics, however the references to the flora, fauna, characters, landscapes and sports throughout the collection are typically Australian.  My personal favourites included ‘Death of a Whale’ by John Blight, ‘The Cliff’ by David Rowbotham and ‘The Old Colonist’ by Andrew Taylor, the two former due to the wave of emotion they evoke and the latter for my lifelong love of felines.

I have never read an anthology of poetry before, however I was recently drawn to this one whilst browsing at my local library. I am very pleased I took the time to read this as I feel I now have a greater knowledge, not only of those who have contributed to Australia’s literary history, but of our country’s history in general.

ISBN: 978-1-74066-811-8

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake is the first book in the Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood. I have previously read The Year of the Flood (the second in the trilogy, with Maddaddam being the third) and was pleased to discover that I was not disadvantaged by reading the publications in a somewhat inverted order as I was keen to continue with the series.

In the beginning of Oryx and Crake we meet Jimmy (AKA Snowman) who is alone but for the ‘Children of Crake’, a race of human like beings. The novel slowly reveals how Jimmy came to be in his current plight and holds the reader’s interest with seamless transitions been past and present.

Interwoven with this is the unconventional friendship and love triangle between Jimmy, the elusive Oryx and the brilliant, yet eccentric Crake.

The prose is at once beautiful and despairing and the author provides a stunning depiction of an all too imaginable future, a future which includes animal splices, the stark contrast between highly secured residential communities and the ‘pleeblands’, and a world ravaged by natural disasters.

I was left wanting a little more insight into the characters of Crake and Oryx but this may have taken away some of their allure.

I thoroughly enjoyed both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood and am looking forward to reading the final instalment.

Publisher Synopsis
“Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey – with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake – through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.”

ISBN: 9780385721677