Wednesday, April 28, 2010

South of Broad - TLC Book Tour

South of Broad South of Broad by Pat Conroy

Publisher: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
Publication date: August 11, 2009
ISBN: 9780385413053
Pages: 514
Price: $29.95

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The last time I was at the dentist, my hygienist told me that I really needed to read this book. So when TLC emailed and asked me to participate in the tour, I was very happy to! I have never read a Pat Conroy before, and since Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the world, it was high time we get introduced.

In a nutshell, if you took a 20-year span of a group of mismatched friends from Charleston, throw in every possible life disturbance and social issue you can think of, and you've pretty much got this one covered. Of course, it is much, much more than that. Our narrator is Leo King, the son of an ex-nun-turned-high-school-principal and her devoted husband. It's 1969, and as loner Leo approaches his senior year of high school, his mother asks him to befriend some incoming students--three orphans, two flamboyent new neighbors, three kids from upper-echelon Charleston society who have just been busted for drug possession and kicked out of their swanky private school, and the son of the new football coach, who happens to be Black when racial integration was in its early days. Together these friends whether the storms of life including AIDS, extramarital affairs, suicide, mental illness, abuse in many forms, parental disapproval, stalking by a psycho murderer, fame and fortune, as well as one literal storm named Hurricane Hugo.

In some ways, this book is a love letter to Charleston. And for that, it earns major kudos. The lush descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells, food, and architecture were so spot on. There is a section of the book set in 1989 in San Francisco that definitely provides a much different picture. It's one of the Tenderloin district as homosexual men lay dying by a ravaging disease that we had not yet figured out how to treat.

I think this book was very ambitious in its scope and that frustrated me at times. I didn't like flipping back and forth between the two time periods and I thought some events were highly implausible. While I was certainly drawn into the plot, the language, violence and rough sexuality were hard for me to get through.  Some of the characters were a little too cliched, but I really did gain a fondness for Leo and his snarky dialogue. I've never seen sarcasm written so well. Despite being over 500 pages, I did finish this in less than two days and I think I would like to try more works by this author.

Other tour stops:
Book 38 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 24 of 50 for the New Author Challenge 
Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.


bermudaonion said...

The reviews for this book seem to be lukewarm, but I do love Charleston and Pat Conroy, so I'll probably give it a shot.

Emilia said...

Our book club did this last month ago. Maybe it was because I was sleep deprived from just having a baby, or maybe it because I just don't love Conroy, but it is not a book I will recommend. I did enjoy the dialog, but every book of his seems to have sexual violence as a major plot point. Not my favorite.

Suzette Saxton said...

Love your blog! I've added a link to it on my blog, on a page dedicated to book reviewers. I'll soon blog about the importance of people like you.

Thanks for doing what you do!

Tricia said...

Thanks Suzette! I really appreciate it.