Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: South of Broad

I'm squeezing in one last review of 2010 in between New Year's Eve appetizer courses. I had the luxury of reading for several uninterrupted hours the past couple of days and managed to finish one last book: Pat Conroy's South of Broad.

First of all, I should say that Conroy is a master storyteller. I'm just not sure that I liked this story. I was mesmerized by the first few sections, but it took so many bizarre twists and turns that I'm still kind of recovering.

The main action takes place in Charleston, SC, with a cast of eclectic friends including Toad, the narrator (who is the son of a Catholic nun), a pair of orphans, theatrical twins, two black teens in a sea of white, and a few Charleston high-society types.

Conroy spans about 30 years, covering everything from suicide to integration to socioeconomic prejudice to AIDs to child abuse to insanity and just about everything in between. And there's lots of graphic sex of all kinds (including rape and incest), blood, gore, and plenty of tragedy. I'm exhausted just thinking about the roller coaster I've been on with Toad and his friends the past few days. It was all just too much. Just one of the storylines could have made a great novel, but so many dramas mixed into one novel just makes chaos.

One question that kept rising to the surface as I read through the chapters was this: Does anyone really live like this? Is this actually reflective a real person's life? I just can't buy it.

Yesterday when I was about 1/8th of the way through the novel, I told my husband I loved it. Tonight, upon finishing, I say, "Good riddance."

Other Reviews of South of Broad
The Literate Housewife
Medieval Bookworm
Jen's Book Thoughts
Alison's Book Marks


Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

I read this earlier in the year, but I can't imagine reading this one in a condensed amount of time. There's a LOT of drama packed into one book, and a lot to take in at once.

Leah C said...

I've read two Pat Conroy novels this year and have Beach Music on my TBR stack. I love his story telling, but even with Prince of Tides, I felt emotionally drained after reading. I think I'll add this one to my list between some definite light reads. :)

Literary Feline said...

I love your comments to your husband when you were a little ways in and then at the end. :-) I haven't read a Pat Conroy book, although I think I may have Beach Music around here somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Would you be interested in reading and reviewing my novel? Here's the link to learn more.

I could send you the pdf file or the Kindle version.

Carin S. said...

Interesting - I had kind of the opposite reading reaction to this novel. I started off hating it but thought it improved with time. I've read all of Conroy's books (except his latest) and I've been disappointed in the last 2 novels. His early books are some of my all-time favorites, but ones I worry won't hold up on rereading. I think he's getting a bit maudlin and melodramatic with age. Even though his early books are soap operas as well, they're more realistic, less ridiculous, and feel more honest. This one was trying way too hard. Felt like a 40-year-old pageant queen.