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Summary and book reviews of South of Broad by Pat Conroy

South of Broad

by Pat Conroy

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

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Book Summary

The one and only Pat Conroy returns, with a big, sprawling novel that is at once a love letter to Charleston and to lifelong friendship.

Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of thirteen, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades-from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The ties among them endure for years, surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, and Charleston's dark legacy of racism and class divisions. But the final test of friendship that brings them to San Francisco is something no one is prepared for. South of Broad is Pat Conroy at his finest; a long-awaited work from a great American writer whose passion for life and language knows no bounds.

Prologue

The Mansion on the River

It was my father who called the city the Mansion on the River.

He was talking about Charleston, South Carolina, and he was a native son, peacock proud of a town so pretty it makes your eyes ache with pleasure just to walk down its spellbinding, narrow streets. Charleston was my father's ministry, his hobbyhorse, his quiet obsession, and the great love of his life. His bloodstream lit up my own with a passion for the city that I've never lost nor ever will. I'm Charleston-born, and bred. The city's two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, have flooded and shaped all the days of my life on this storied peninsula.

I carry the delicate porcelain beauty of Charleston like the hinged shell of some soft-tissued mollusk. My soul is peninsula-shaped and sun-hardened and river-swollen. The high tides of the city flood my consciousness each day, subject to the whims and harmonies of full moons rising out of the Atlantic. I grow calm when I see the ranks of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Book
Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a respected Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of ten, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father;...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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, for example:

South of Broad will offer true Conroy fans many familiar elements… 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).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times

Conroy remains a magician of the page. As a writer, he owns the South Carolina coast. But the descriptions of the tides and the palms, the confessions of love and loss, the memories “evergreen and verdant” set side by side with evocations of the “annoyed heart” have simply been done better — by the author himself.

The Seattle Times

Conroy is an entertaining storyteller — he has a corker of a final twist here — yet much of "South of Broad" shows a weakness for emotional fireworks, two-dimensional characters and rough or purplish prose.

The Washington Post

[E]ven though I felt stage-managed by Conroy's heavy hand, I still turned the pages with relish. No one can describe a tide or a sunset with his lyricism and exactitude. My sense is that the millions of readers who cherish Conroy's work won't be at all disappointed - and nor will anyone who owns stock in Kleenex.

Booklist

[A] vast, intricate story [revealing] truths about love, lust, classism, racism, religion, and what it means to be shaped by a particular place, be it Charleston, South Carolina, or anywhere else in the U.S.

Publishers Weekly

Fans of Conroy's florid prose and earnest melodramas are in for a treat.

Kirkus Reviews

Conroy is a natural at weaving great skeins of narrative, and this one will prove a great pleasure to his many fans.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Filled with the lyrical, funny, poignant language that is Conroy's birthright, this is a work Conroy fans will love.

Reader Reviews

Rebecca

South of Broad, Southern, Unlikely friendships
Pat Conroy has written another hit. This one is a based in Charleston, South Carolina and is a story of unlikely friendships that start in High School and last a lifetime. Leo King is eight years old when he finds his ten year old brother who has ...   Read More

Peg

Feast of Emotions and Adjectives
Conroy’s newest Southern adventure “South of Broad” is worth the wait – I inhaled this novel. His liberal use of adjectives allowed me to imagine or remember the ambiance, smell and taste of everything about the cities of Charleston and San Francisco...   Read More

Margaret

South of Broad, instant best seller
South of Broad is an instant best seller and here is why: The story immediately draws in the reader. The writing is excellent with many spots of humor as well as suspense. The plot takes place in Charleston, S.C. depicting three generations of ...   Read More

Janet

A Journey Worth Taking
This is the fourth book I have read by Pat Conroy . In his beautiful melodic prose (he could have been a composer or an artist), Conroy takes us on a journey with the friends young Leo King makes as a teenager into their adulthood, and in some ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Pat Conroy was born on October 26, 1945, in Atlanta, Georgia, to a young career military officer from Chicago and a Southern beauty from Alabama, whom Pat often credits for his love of language. He was the first of seven children.

His father was a violent and abusive man, a man whose biggest mistake, Conroy once said, was allowing a novelist to grow up in his home.  Since his family had to move many times to different military bases around the South, Conroy changed schools frequently, finally attending the Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, upon his father's insistence. While still a student, he wrote and then published his first book, The Boo, a tribute to a beloved teacher.

After graduation, ...

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