Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: "South of Broad"

"South of Broad" by Pat Conroy
Published in 2009
My rating: 4 out of 5

"South of Broad" features one main character, Leo King, and a cast of supporting actors, all of whom we meet first in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1969 when the motley crew is drawn together just before their senior year at Peninsula High School, and again in 1989 when they band together as adults to help one of their own. These characters include children of some of the most powerful families in Charleston, orphans, blacks and whites, a homosexual and a girl who will go on to become one of the most famous actresses in Hollywood. And, of course, our lovable narrator Leo King (a.k.a. The Toad for the thick glasses he wore in high school, giving him a "toad-like" appearance), whose parents are middle-class Charlestonians (his mother the principal of his high school and his father an affable physics teacher) still grieving the death of their older son Steve, who killed himself at age 10.

"South of Broad" is one of the most complex novels I've ever read. It deals with myriad social issues including: racism and integration, homosexuality and the starts of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, religion, sexual abuse and incest, suicide, murder, infidelity, mental illness, alcoholism, high society versus lower class, bullying, the devastation to Charleston caused by category 5 Hurricane Hugo, and the list goes on. But "South of Broad" also teaches lessons of love, kindness, friendship, trust and overcoming the most difficult events life dishes out.

It took me a few chapters to really get into the novel. I don't usually enjoy authors who use overly flowery language, and it seemed the first few-dozen pages were written just so; luckily, the writing gets a bit more straightfoward after that (although there were still a couple words I had to look up in the dictionary). To my surprise, I ended up really enjoying this novel and I'm looking forward to reading more of Pat Conroy's work.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Sounds interesting with lots of characters. I know you said it moves along fairly well too. May be a book I'd read.

  2. Have you been to the Border's Going Out of Business clearance?


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