Saturday, August 1, 2009

Starting August Off With Right--With Reading!

So, in an attempt to make August a bit more of a successfull reading month than July, I'm taking advantage of this quiet weekend to get some reading in. Yay! Which means I managed to power through the last 200-odd pages of Pat Conroy's new novel "South of Broad" in the past 24 hours. And watch Marley and Me and the new Harry Potter (finally!). It's amazing how much you can get done with insomnia!

Anyways, on to "South of Broad". As I say in the review below, this was a really mixed read for me. I wouldn't say I didn't like it, because there were parts of the novel that I love. But then there were other things that made me say "no way, this is ridiculous!". So read my recap below and make a decision for yourself--this is expected to be one of the biggest books of the fall and it will be released on September 15.

Pat Conroy's "South of Broad" focuses on the life of Leo King, a newspaper columnist in Charleston, SC, and his close knit group of friends. The book focuses on two periods in Leo's life, his senior year in high school 1969-1970 and a tumultuous year 20 years later in 1989-1990. Although Leo is blessed with a large and generous circle of friends and deep religious faith, his life is filled with a series of trials and heartbreaks that are recounted in this sweeping epic of a novel.

This was my first encounter with Pat Conroy, and I mostly picked up the book because it was much buzzed about as one of the biggest books of the fall. I think the word that best describes this work is uneven. There were some parts of this novel that I loved, where the story was rich and the writing matched some of the best I have ever read. But then there were other parts that seemed contrived and unrealistic to me, and by the end of the novel so many things happen to Leo that I felt like Conroy had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at me. When put together, these contrasts diminished the book for me. Conroy obviously has a gift for capturing human emotion and the richness that is found in relationships between people. But I think this book simply tries to do too many things. The essence of 3 or 4 really great stories lie in this novel, when put all together they just make one jumbled whole.

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