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South of Broad Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 11, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 1,343 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Charleston, S.C., gossip columnist Leopold Bloom King narrates a paean to his hometown and friends in Conroy's first novel in 14 years. In the late '60s and after his brother commits suicide, then 18-year-old Leo befriends a cross-section of the city's inhabitants: scions of Charleston aristocracy; Appalachian orphans; a black football coach's son; and an astonishingly beautiful pair of twins, Sheba and Trevor Poe, who are evading their psychotic father. The story alternates between 1969, the glorious year Leo's coterie stormed Charleston's social, sexual and racial barricades, and 1989, when Sheba, now a movie star, enlists them to find her missing gay brother in AIDS-ravaged San Francisco. Too often the not-so-witty repartee and the narrator's awed voice (he is very fond of superlatives) overwhelm the stories surrounding the group's love affairs and their struggles to protect one another from dangerous pasts. Some characters are tragically lost to the riptides of love and obsession, while others emerge from the frothy waters of sentimentality and nostalgia as exhausted as most readers are likely to be. Fans of Conroy's florid prose and earnest melodramas are in for a treat. (Aug.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Pat Conroy's highly anticipated work earned a decidedly lackluster response from critics, who cited overblown prose, cardboard characters, and implausible plot twists among the novel's key sins. The Dallas Morning News quite candidly noted: "[H]e goes on and on—and on—about the glories of Charleston, S.C., to the point that many readers will be tempted to hurl the book into the nearest vessel of water." But the news wasn't all bad. The Chicago Sun-Times hailed the novel as "a gripping saga," and even disappointed critics, many of them longtime Conroy fans, admitted the 500-plus page novel contained moments of glorious storytelling. Overall, however, readers may find their time better spent rereading Conroy's beloved The Prince of Tides.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (August 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038541305X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385413053
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,343 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Years ago I read Conroy's "Prince of Tides" and was enthralled with the story. After reading it I felt a certain fondness that readers sometimes feel for authors - a gratitude for the author bringing the story to me, and doing it well. I was very excited to receive this new novel of Conroy's all these years later. I didn't read any reviews of it as I wanted to come to the book with a totally open mind.

About 30 pages into "South of Broad" I began to feel uncomfortable with the book, and with reviewing it. The dialogue seemed stilted, and did not ring true, particularly in light of the ages of the main characters at the beginning. This issue continued throughout the book and I finally marked a page in order to find it again when I was finished and ready to review the book. Here is the passage I marked as an example: "Tonight, Sheba Poe" Ike says, "you're coming clean. You're going to lay it all out for us. I don't mind dying for you. I really don't. But I'd sure as hell like to know why." The reader is asked to believe that a grown, married man with a wife and children would volunteer to help out a childhood friend, and risk his life in doing so, as long as the childhood friend tells him her entire story.

This passage is also indicative of another issue I had with the book - there are numerous high drama episodes in the lives of the friends. There are so many that the book began to seem, to me, like the plot of a soap opera as opposed to a story that I could imagine is true.

The relationships in the book really stretched credibility. Given the incredibly ugly episodes among some of the characters in their teenage years, it is not plausible that as adults they were regularly socializing and calling each other "friends.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Leopold Bloom King ("Leo" to friends) is the narrator of Pat Conroy's first novel in 14 years. The story opens on Bloomsday, 1969, in Charleston, South Carolina. Most families don't commemorate this celebration of the work of James Joyce, but then again, most parents don't name their sons after fictional Joycean characters. At the tender age of 18, painfully shy Leo has had enough drama to last a lifetime. Trouble began early with his radiant older brother's suicide. Leo found the body. This led to years of therapy and adventures within the mental health care system. Finally released from institutions, Leo is immediately convicted of a crime he didn't commit, but for which he won't defend himself. All of this has occurred before the events of the novel, and is exposited in the first 50 pages or so.

On that fateful Bloomsday, Leo is finally on the verge of getting his act together. And this kid is too good to be true. He's got no friends his own age, but Leo is genuinely kind-hearted and charms any adult willing to give him a chance. However, everything changes on that day. It's the day that larger-than-life twins Sheba and Trevor Poe move across the street. It is also the day that he meets Ike Jefferson, the son of his new African American football coach (thanks to desegregation). It is the day he meets teenage orphans Niles and Starla Whitehead, just arrived in town and handcuffed to their chairs. And, finally, it is the day he meets South of Broad bluebloods, Chad and Fraser Rutledge and the beautiful Molly Huger. It is, in short, an eventful day.

The non-linear novel is told in five parts. That first part establishes the rich Charleston setting, gives the necessary exposition, and cements the life-altering relationships of these high school friends.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Warning! Plot spoilers. That is, these are spoilers if your have either: 1) Never read a Conroy novel or 2) Never heard of Conroy.

Pat Conroy should sue. Someone has generated a novel featuring all of the familiar Conroy elements and fed them into a plot generating device and come up with a novel that has everything a Conroy novel has. Except for wit. Except for snappy dialog. Except for realistic relationships and except for three dimensional characters.

Here are the basics: suicide (2), murder (2), threats of murder, madness (almost everyone to one degree or another), mental hospitals, religious disputes, beautiful women, stereotypical gay behavior, enduring friendship, racism, brotherhood, rich, poor, good parents, bad parents, crazy parents, distant parents, understanding parents, cloying descriptions of Charleston, stereotypical put downs of all that is not Charleston, and more beautiful women and the awkward men who love them.

It was all there in Beach Music, Prince of Tides and Lords of Discipline. But it was done better and more convincingly and with much better dialog.

It could have used more astute editing as well. Do mentally deranged people take "psychotic drugs?" Probably not. It is hoped that they take anti-psychotic drugs, which would seem to be more purposeful, but that's just me.

I read this book [on Kindle] so you don't have to
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Conroy's "Lords of Discipline" is my all-time favorite novel, with "Prince of Tides" somewhere near the top as well. I was never a big fan of "Beach Music," but only because the plot never drew me in.

This is unfortunately a disaster of a novel - not much more than the lowest kind of southern-fried melodrama. It painfully makes clear that being a novelist isn't something you can put aside for years at a time, and hope your skills return to you at the same high level. The writer of "Lords" and "Prince" is nothing but a shadow here.

I'm not going to give plot points away. But...the tragic narrator (a Conroy set-piece, but never so contrived as here) is not sympathetic or relatable. The dialogue is stilted and expository, and the characters don't behave in a realistic fashion. The conversations he wrote that seemed so real in his other books, seem completely phony in "South," written to move the plot along, not to actually bring life to the characters.

There is of course a twist at the end, and it is aw-ful. It comes completely out of the blue, for no good reason, and I'm not even sure what reaction I as the reader was supposed to have. It's not a question of "getting it," because he hits the reader with a hammer. But an author can't throw a twist like this without some effective foreshadowing, which isn't there at all.

He has touched on race relations in all his previous books, but in this one it really descends to the level of the "magic Negro," where the black characters are all saintly and perfect, only existing to help the growth of the white characters.

A main character dies in a surprising - in a bad way - fashion. Again, with no set up and no point. The author owes the reader some reason to care about the things that are happening.
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