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Beach Music: A Novel Paperback – March 26, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Booksellers and other vitally interested parties can quit holding their collective breath: Conroy has not lost his touch. His storytelling powers have not failed; neither has his poetic skill with words, nor his vivid imagination. His long-awaited sixth book sings with the familiar elegiac Southern cadences, his prose is sweepingly lyrical (if sometimes melodramatic), unabashedly sentimental (if sometimes indigestibly schmaltzy). The hero, Jack McCall, describes himself as a man on the run from his past: the suicide of his beloved wife; the destructive influence of his icy, manipulative mother and mean, bullying, alcoholic father; the betrayal of his youthful ideals, his faith in the Catholic Church, his boyhood friends. There is, of course, the familiar theme of dysfunctional families; in addition to the McCalls, two other family units vie for the dubious title of most messed-up. But Conroy has added a new element here, by dramatizing his conviction that the "unbearable wound" of Vietnam was our country's spiritual Holocaust. Conroy takes on these emotionally laden issues in chapters so direct and powerful that readers will be moved by his intimacy with the material, and perhaps astonished by his authority over it. Conroy meshes complex plot lines with ease. Jack, a food and travel writer, fled with his toddler daughter, Leah, to Rome in 1982 in the wake of his wife Shyla's suicidal jump from a bridge in Charleston, S.C., and her parents' subsequent lawsuit to deny him custody of Leah. He returns home some years later because his mother is dying of leukemia. In addition to becoming embroiled in family tension, he begins a slow process of reconciliation with Shyla's parents, who eventually tell him the stories of their respective Holocaust experiences; with his first love, Ledare Ashley, now a scriptwriter employed by their youthful chum, Mike Hess, to write a screenplay of their growing-up years; and with his parents and siblings. He witnesses the return to Waterford of another friend, Jordan Elliot, who has been presumed dead for 18 years after he was accused of murder during a protest against the Vietnam War, and who was betrayed by the fourth member of their boyhood clan, Capers Middleton, who is now running for governor of South Carolina. Though the book suffers from some florid digressions (a fish story that makes Jonah's adventure seem tame, a totally inappropriate shaggy-dog tale), it is always passionately sincere. Conroy's dark humor has its usual sardonic edge, and his characters' rat-a-tat repartee is laden with casual obscenities and jocular insults. As expected, the characters are larger than life-impossibly beautiful, romantic, witty; in particular, Jack's precocious daughter may seem too mature, sweet, graceful, poised and smart to be true. In the end, of course, as Jack understands that everybody in his life carries a tragic secret equal to the anguish he bears, he achieves healing in the very community, and the very South, he had been determined to leave forever. 750,000 first printing; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selection; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Conroy's was the most talked-about book at the American Booksellers Association convention, even though it was reputedly only half-written. Hero Jack McCall, who has fled to Rome after his wife's suicide, is asked to locate a Sixties buddy whose antiwar activity drove him underground.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (March 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553381539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553381535
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (732 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pat Conroy is the author of eight previous books: The Boo, The Water is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, My Losing Season, and The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. He lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina. Photo copyright: David G. Spielman

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

204 of 216 people found the following review helpful By TheReader23 on October 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
To read a book by Pat Conroy is to come to the realization that so much of everything else I read, and think is good, is truly just an appetizer getting me ready for the main course -- which is what Conroy is. Every sentence you read lures you into the web of Conroy's storytelling. This is a book that will take you from the piazzas in Rome to the low country of South Carolina. You will fall so deeply in love with each setting that you couldn't possibly decide which place you would prefer to live.
Every character is a tortured soul who has a tale to tell -- one more heartbreaking than the other. The main story follows Jack McCall, who flees to Rome with his young daughter Leah after his beloved wife Shyla has committed suicide. He leaves behind a bevy of colorful family and friends in an effort to escape his torment and begin a new life in a new land. As a travel writer by trade, Jack is able to pick up and live wherever he chooses. It is a telegram from a family member that will finally bring Jack back to South Carolina to face his demons and learn the stories of all those he loves.
Conroy has the ability of dropping crumbs along the way leading you to each character's hidden story. He touches on times in history involving the Holocaust and the Vietnam War -- each decade so real that I don't even want to think about the horrors. But it is these horrors that have come to shape the characters whose cards have been dealt and whose hands must be played. They are all part of a finely interwoven story with South Carolina as the stage for the grand finale.
In reading the book, I can only wonder if the author can write the last twenty pages and not cry himself. I don't usually cry when reading a book but I must admit that this one did me in.
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87 of 97 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pat Conroy is my favorite author--I just wish he produced a new book every three months like John Grishom. There is absolutely nobody else who has the power of "description" and "Imagery" that he has.
I love Conroy's writing because it is always so contradictory. He makes you love and hate his characters at the same time. I started out by being completely annoyed with John Hardin in this novel, and then he ended up being my favorite character--he was so funny and outrageous. I felt the same about his mother--loved and hated her at the time time. I remember this was also true of his characters when I read "Prince of Tides." He has such an ability to play with the reader's emotions.
Beach Music was harder than his other novels because of so many subplots & characters, but instead of wishing it hadn't been so long and gone into so much, I found myself wishing it was longer, and he had developed the characters & subplots even more.
There is always a feeling of "letdown" when you finish one of Pat Conroy's novels because you don't want it to end. Nobody writes about "dysfunction" with his sense of humor.
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78 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on April 14, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm usually a reviewer who argues for strong editing, saying books are too long and in need of brutal slashing and burning.
But this book of Pat Conroy's doesn't fall in that category; I loved and cherished every word of it. It's rich, lush, full of atmospheric detail.
Pat Conroy at his best, and it makes me want to go to Italy and the South.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This has become one of my favorite books of all time. Conroy's imagery and use of detail to enhance his storyline is exemplary. He expresses ideas and emotions very well. My favorite quote from the book expressess this idea. "I could feel the tears within me, undiscovered and untouched in their inland sea. Those tears haad been with me always." His explanation why couldn't cry for his wife's death was touching. I have also read Prince of Tides by Conroy, and though the plot have many similarities, I like Beach Music better of the two because it touches on so many more people and their stories. It bothered me aa little at first that there were so many similarites in plot and in characters, but then I became more intrigued because I felt as if I was reading about Conroy's own life, that he had drawn from his personal experiences. Whether this is true or not I don't know. The characters are extremely well developed, each with their own destictive personality, which is amazing considering the number of characters involved. I really liked the plot of the book bacause he delt with so many issues and tied them together so well. He reaches out and pulls amazing stories from his characters, and does it without seeming fake.
I wouldn't say this book is for everyone. I wouldn't recommend Beach Musi to people who like extremely fast paced books and don't have the patience for character development. I also would not recommend it to people who would have a hard time dealing with the issues he brings up like suicide, rape, mental instability and the Holocaust. However, I think Conroy's book has great value.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By K. Thompson on March 20, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pat Conroy is, more or less, the best modern American writer. Word truly seem to flow from his "pen"; his characters are captivating and well-developed; his descriptions, whether he's describing a person, place or thing, are unbelievable; and his plots are such dramas, filled with scenes that will make you laugh, make you shrink back in horror, and make you cry.
Beach Music is probably the best, and longest, of Conroy's books. The melodrama begins when Jack McCall, an Southerner who moved to Italy to raise his young daughter after his wife committed suicide, is called back to his home town--Waterford, SC--because his mother is dying. The book describes Jack and his four younger brothers (including wonderfully written scenes with his youngest, and craziest brother John Hardin--who happens to be my favorite character) as they struggle with their family's past, their mother's dying, and the pitiful-excuse-of-a-human-being that is their father.
Secondly, this book describes Jack's attempt to understand why his wife killed herself, and his attempt to reconcile with her family. This part of the book, Jack's in-laws' stories, are probably the hardest emotionally to read. Both of his in-laws were survivors of concentration camps, and their stories are truly heart-wrenching.
Thirdly, this book tells the tale of Jack reuniting with his best guy and girl friends from his teenage years. This part tells how Jack fell in love, how he met his best friend, and what happened to each of their lives. For whatever reason, this section of the book reminded me of the Big Chill (probably because of the reuniting of old friends), but I found this part very enjoyable.
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