We interrupt our regularly scheduled science fiction fare for something quite different. Something so momentous and so amazing it has been several years in the making. Well, in all honesty, I am really just mixing metaphors for my own amusement. Today I am bringing you into the world of my favorite author of all time. I never really passionately held a strong belief in the writing talent of a single author until I read my first novel by Pat Conroy and became instantly enamored. It was as I was pouring through the open ing pages of Beach Music that I discovered in a single book all the things I loved about the English language and all the ways I wanted it to be used.
Mr. Conroy writes these sweeping epics of family drama and love and loss in a way that makes my heart sing with the pure joy of reading the words. When I first read Beach Music I was feeling a little blue and looking for something to lift my spirits. Beach Music is not a light romance like I was somehow expecting. It begins with tragedy enough to make you sob for days and yet somehow the prose still lifted my spirit.
The publication of a new novel from Pat Conroy has been promised for years and it finally happened one day when I wasn’t looking. South of Broad starts with the same overwhelming prose that made me fall in love with Mr. Conroy the first time I flipped open Beach Music and stayed up half the night gripped in its clutches. South of Broad is set in the lavishly described Charleston, South Carolina. The novel starts with a prologue that paints for the reader an amazingly vivid portrait of this city and what it means to the man whose story we will soon be traveling through.
“Everything I reveal to you now will be Charleston-shaped and Charleston-governed, and sometimes even Charleston-ruined.”
Leopold Bloom King is the second son born to a Ulysses obsessed mother who named both her son’s after James Joyce’s novel. When the novel begins Leo is still a very young man and already his life seems to be ruined by the tragic circumstances around him. While many of Conroy’s previous works have dealt with tragedy the detail in this novel seem so forward and heavy handed with out the language to hold the events up and float the reader along through the hard parts. It is true that life itself is hard, but when I am face with it in fiction I just want to turn away. It takes some very strong writing to pull me through an emotionally difficult book. South of Broad seems front loaded with exposition and is lacking the charm I expect from this talented author.
I read this author for his writing more than his story. His characters are compelling, but in South of Broad I didn’t connect as deeply with them as I did in some of his previous works.