BookBrowse Reviews South of Broad by Pat Conroy

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South of Broad

by Pat Conroy

South of Broad by Pat Conroy X
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2009, 528 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2010, 544 pages

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The beloved Pat Conroy returns with his first novel in 14 years

The first novel in fourteen years from beloved writer Pat Conroy (Beach Music, Prince of Tides) evoked passionate responses from our members. With 20 out of 23 rating it 4 or 5 stars, nearly all of them found the book well worth the wait, but even the fans had some criticisms.

Some of our readers loved it without reservation:
With South of Broad, an ode to the beauty of Charleston and the joys and sorrows of friendship, Pat Conroy pulled me into his imagined world from page one. It's not the first time this has happened and I hope it won't be the last (Mary Lee P). Being a southerner myself and very familiar with Charleston, I could see each street and house and walled garden as it was being described. I have also spent many days in San Francisco so I could picture the rundown neighborhoods and the mansion on the coast. For those of you not familiar with these cities, Mr. Conroy has masterfully painted a magical picture for you to treasure. I could not put this book down once I picked it up, and as soon as I finish passing it around to all my friends, I plan on reading it again (Rebecca C).

In this wonderfully written account of a white, middle class, teenage boy growing up in the south during the tumultuous 60s, Leo King is the anchor of a racially, socially and economically diverse group of teens, all of whom are facing the challenges of coexisting in a newly segregated world (Teresa C). While following the group's adventures and misadventures from childhood to adulthood, anyone fortunate enough to have good friends (especially if they've married one) will be reminded of those relationships while reading Leo’s life story. South of Broad has enough ambiguities and unanticipated surprises to satisfy a mystery-lover. The book is also an excellent window into the 1960s, 70s and 80s, when racial tension was high, the rules of right and wrong seemed to be changing, and sex turned deadly (Peg M).

but others were disappointed:
I have been an ardent fan of Mr. Conroy and waited impatiently these last 14 years for another novel after Beach Music. I was ecstatic to see that South of Broad was 500+ pages and looked forward to his unique command of language and ability to spin a story that captures a reader's attention from the first sentence. I had no doubts that my 14 year wait would be rewarded with another Conroy masterpiece… sadly, I was wrong (Deborah P). I noticed a shift in his writing in his last novel, Beach Music. I felt he was caving in to the pressures of popular fiction by adding superfluous intrigue into the story. Unfortunately, South of Broad is more of the same. The novel is overwritten and has a contrived and predictable plot (Brooke). I was disappointed by many of the characters who struck me as either stereotypes or caricatures. The bond Leo and his friends have after twenty years is enviable, but the entire group faced so much drama that the novel was reminiscent of a soap opera (Sandra G).

So what's the bottom line?
South of Broad will offer true Conroy fans many familiar elements - suicide, the look and smell of the salt marsh, athletics, deep familial scars, the south, other parts of the country as seen through the prism of the south, verbal skirmishes… While the plot can be a little contrived and the dialogue occasionally too cute, it's overall a good, enjoyable read. Although it falls short of Prince of Tides, this book shows there is life after Beach Music and gives me hope that Mr. Conroy will return to the regular creation of exceptional novels... I, for one, have missed him (Fred V).

This review was originally published in September 2009, and has been updated for the May 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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