Wednesday, January 20, 2010

6 - South of Broad; Pat Conroy


South of Broad; Pat Conroy
In Pat Conroy's first novel in some 14 years, the story begins in 1969 and spans some 20 years.  It is a story which takes place in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, and is centered around some childhood tragedies.

The central character Leopold (Leo) Bloom King (named after James Joyce's Leopold Bloom in Ulysses), has been through a lot as a young boy. When he was just eight years old, his 13 year old brother Steve had commit suicide, and Leo found his brother dead in the bath tub.  The family is devastated by the suicide; Leo even spends time in therapy and a mental hospital as a child. Steve was the golden boy, the favored child of his mother Lindsay, a former nun, and now school principal, and his father Jasper, a high school science teacher.

The story jumps around a bit but begins in June of 1969, the summer before his senior year of high school Leo connects with some new friends, a motley crew, who will both improve and complicate his life over the next twenty years. These new friends, most of who are psychologically damaged like Leo in some way include: poor runaway Appalachian orphan siblings Niles and Starla, Twins Trevor and Sheba Poe, children of an alcoholic mother and a psychotic killer father, aristocratic siblings Chad and Fraser Rutledge, Chad's girlfriend Molly, a socialite, and Ike Jefferson, and African American, who was one of the first students integrated into the public school system in the 60s.

When the story moves to 1989, the majority of the old group still resides in Charleston except for Sheba, who is now a Hollywood movie star, and her brother Trevor. Sheba reconnects with the group to help her find Trevor, her gay brother who is missing and is believed to be in San Francisco. Although two decades have passed, the friends come together and help each other to heal some broken hearts in the process.

MY THOUGHTS - The audio version of this book was excellent and the credit goes to the reader Mark Deakins.  The writing is beautiful, the characters are real and easy to care about, and their stories are tragic. Nothing at all is predictable in this story,  the writing makes it seem almost magical. The author creates a marvelous sense of place with Charleston, and his love of the area is so evident in the writing. With themes such as racism, mental illness, sexual orientation, AIDS, suicide, division of class, love and loss, I think South of Broad would make an excellent book club discussion book.  RECOMMENDED  (4.5/5)

(The audio book I listened to was borrowed from my local library, but I also was fortunate to have received a review copy from Doubleday's Nan Talese - many thanks.)

14 comments:

  1. It sounds like everyone in the book has some kind of issue of a very dramatic nature!

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  2. I love Pat Conroy's work, so I'm really looking forward to this. Great revew!

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  3. For part of our honeymoon, Tony and I were in Charleston, so I'm really interested in reading some of Conroy's fiction as I know he's from there and well I've been on Broad street! That being said, I'm glad I didn't read this on our honeymoon as it seems like quite a heavy book.

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  4. I hadn't realized that there were such serious themes in this book. I have heard that it is really good though.

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  5. I finished this recently and really enjoyed it. I got it back in August, but neither one of my parents liked it/finished it, so I kept putting it off. I gave it a shot when I was low on reading material and was completely engaged. Sped through it. I love all of his novels, and this one was no exception!

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  6. Great review! I've read this book and really enjoyed it.

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  7. Can't wait to read this! My mother loved it (said it was all-consuming), and then picked up Beach Music for a reread. Sounds like a perfect vacation book to me...

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  8. this is on my shelf awaiting a read (the paper version, not audio) - I really like Conroy's books and am looking forward to digging in.

    I like your comment re: the reader on the audiobook - whether or not I like the voice of the reader is such a predictor for me of whether or not I enjoy the audiobook.

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  9. I will have to make time for this book this year!! or maybe check it out on audio!

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  10. I'm so glad that Conroy hasn't let down his readers after all of these years!

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  11. The only Conroy book I've ever read was Prince of Tides and I didn't care for it at the time. That was several years ago though.

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  12. I'm so glad to see that you really enjoyed this. I have the ARC, but I think I'm going to take the path you did and listen to the audiobook. I'm just afraid that I won't get to it for a long while. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

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  13. I'm glad to see you liked this one. I've got it on my shelf but it's another chunkster. I've been kind of putting it off. lol.

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  14. I have heard mixed reviews on this and have avoided it because I really like Pat Conroy's other books. If you liked it, I just might give it a try.

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