Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SOUTH OF BROAD - Pat Conroy

Last evening for Adams Central Adult Literati we discussed this title. I must say it went very well. My only regret is that we had new members and they were not prepared for the content. When we met in the summer to choose our titles we probably didn't make it clear that sometimes in our literati world we do have salty language and mature content as well. Their problem was mostly with the flying "f" word and violence. 

Getting past that, we had a very involved and positive discussion for which 15 of our 23 members attended. For group a few years ago we read Conroy's autobiographical book, The Water is Wide. Many others of us had read Prince of Tides and Beach Music also.  Therefore we were prepared for lyric text, complicated characterization, and lively intricate plot. We were not disappointed. I have to say it is a really great read. 

Newspaper columnist Leopold Bloom King narrates this saga of Charleston, South Carolina. As the reader you follow Leo from the late '60s after his brother (the family golden child) commits suicide through 1989 right after Hurricane Hugo. During his senior year in high school Leo’s circle of friends become a strange conglomerate of Charleston aristocracy; Appalachian orphans; a black football coach's son; and an astonishingly beautiful pair of twins.  Early on it is made known that the twins, Sheba and Trevor Poe and their alcoholic mother are evading their psychotic father. 

The book then alternates between 1969-1970 high school stories and 1989 when the friends are once again banded together to find Trevor who is purported to be dying of aids somewhere in San Francisco.   The high school chapters are full of social, sexual, and racial escapades including the romances and struggles of all the friends, (who incidentally end up with each other which may or may not stretch your believability) along with the major development of Leo’s character. The 1989 chapters are full of intense scenes of adults re-bonding, inspecting where their life has taken them, and dealing with scary violent situations foisted upon them when the twin’s psychotic father reappears.  

In my humble opinion the character development is phenomenal. Some of the high school chapters come together a little too easily or pat to suit my taste but never-the-less they served to move the plot along. One reviewer I read said, “Fans of Conroy's florid prose and earnest melodramas are in for a treat.” A real treat it is. One of our members said, “Usually I don’t like stories that have so many wordy words, but I really liked this one.” By “wordy words” I think he is referring to the reviewers “florid prose” as mentioned above. I know that can be annoying sometimes.

Once I picked it up I didn’t want to put it down.  Romance, rivalry, murder, danger, warmth, religious issues, it has it all, and “wordy words” too for language lovers everywhere. 

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