Waxing enthusiastic

While we were on vacation I started reading our book club selection: Cry, the Beloved Country.

I will say first off that I would never have read this book if it weren't for the club. A quick initial flip through the pages gave me such a sinking feeling: it uses m-dashes instead of quotation marks to indicate dialogue. What could be more off-putting?

And then I read the first page. I was sucked in immediately by the beauty of the prose; the simple dignity of the main character; the emotional intensity of the plot and setting; Africa. The m-dashes are not an obstacle.

I'll give you a taste of it. A man has been murdered, and the protagonist, Kumalo, tries to figure out if he knew him.

[Kumalo] was silent, then he said, yet I remember, there was a small bright boy, and he too sometimes rode on his horse past the church. A small bright boy, I remember, though I do not remember it well.

And he was silent again, for who is not silent when someone is dead, who was a small bright boy?
Here's another one, also about silence. This scene takes place at a church service.

Msimangu opened the book, and read to them first from the book. And Kumalo had not known that his friend had such a voice. For the voice was of gold, and the voice had love for the words it was reading. The voice shook and beat and trembled, not as the voice of an old man shakes and beats and trembles, nor as a leaf shakes and beats and trembles, but as a deep bell when it is struck. For it was not only a voice of gold, but it was the voice of a man whose heart was golden, reading from a book of golden words. And the people were silent, and Kumalo was silent, for when are three such things found in one place together?
Wow. Heady stuff, huh?


  • Wow. I will have to read it! Glad you are back!

    posted by Blogger Heather on 9:38 AM  

  • Oh I love this book! I read it when I was a teenager and it was the first time I understood anything about the political situation in South Africa. (If your book group gets into a South Africa theme, I'd recommend reading Nadine Gordimer's "Burger's Daughter" or "July's People").

    posted by Blogger Kate on 1:05 PM  

  • Welcome back... I read this once a long, long time ago, and couldn't get past the m-dashes. I'll have to give it another try.

    posted by Blogger Melissa on 3:33 PM  

  • Heady and beautiful. Glad you're back!

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 4:31 PM  

  • This is another one of those books I know I need to read, but just haven't somehow. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    posted by Anonymous Melanie Lynne Hauser on 6:04 PM  

  • Welcome back!

    posted by Blogger Fred on 7:59 PM  

  • Did you know that Kurt Weill wrote an equally beautiful musical for this story, in 1949? It's called "Lost in the Stars," and you can listen to clips at Amazon

    posted by Blogger Savtadotty on 12:27 AM