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Beach Music

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  34,491 Ratings  ·  2,334 Reviews
Pat Conroy is without doubt America's favorite storyteller, a writer who portrays the anguished truth of the human heart and the painful secrets of
families in richly lyrical prose and unforgettable narratives. Now, in Beach Music, he tells of the dark memories that haunt generations, in a story
that spans South Carolina and Rome and reaches back into the unutterable terrors
Mass Market Paperback, 800 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by Bantam (first published January 1st 1975)
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Aug 09, 2007 JT rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I would never have read this book, had it not been left in a pile of paperbacks on a rig offshore, and I had I not finished the two books I brought with me already. I honestly had no idea what to expect, and almost put it down after 13 pages because Talladega Nights was on HBO.

But I didn't, and I spent large chunks of my afternoons once back onshore reading this monstrosity. Beach Music is a grand, sweeping novel of a Southern man in a Southern city in a Southern state (South Carolina, ironicall
Sep 02, 2007 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I met Pat Conroy at a book signing event in Atlanta when this book was released. There just so happened to be another Furman Alumni in line ahead of us and I heard Conroy say something about Furman. I spoke up making sure he knew I was there. His response was something like "You Furman people are like Lynx, you're everywhere!" So, thinking I understood that his spat with The Citadel had turned him sour against the school I made some smartass, derogatory comment about The Citadel. He signed my bo ...more
Erin Rouleau
Jun 21, 2007 Erin Rouleau rated it really liked it

It's weird because there's something amateur? unintellectual? about his writing, yet it's profoundly wise and he comes up with poetic comparisons all over the place. I can't place it. Maybe the characters are a bit too cheesy at times. Hopeless romantic? I don't know. But he writes about insanely tragic things and with utter understanding. This and Prince of Tides are very healing books - they have a raw power.

One paragraph summed up my Mom in such beauty that that is all I need to kn
May 23, 2012 Sara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The back cover of this book doesn't give a very good description of what the plot is about. And why would it (how could it?), when the plot is this much of a mess? In short: Jack McCall is an American who moves to Rome with his young daughter after his wife commits suicide, intending to never see anyone from his past again (including his own family), but he eventually comes home and starts dealing with the past.

The long version of the plot is... I don't even know where to begin, the book is such
Aug 05, 2007 Lp rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly one of the worst books I have ever had the misfortune to read. I bought it after hearing Nan Talese, Conroy's editor, talk about how it was put together. In retrospect, I should have realized that her telling of how Conroy was impaired by drink and depression during the writing of the book, and her active role in putting the book together meant it would be a crazy-quilt hodgepodge rambling Faulkner wannabe of a book. When the Nazis showed up, I though, Oh My God.

Kate Dolack
May 23, 2012 Kate Dolack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pat Conroy is a magical writer, and his 'Beach Music,' is no exception. This is perhaps my favorite book of all time, though I do alternate with his other, 'The Prince of Tides,' so beware that I'm reviewing 'Beach Music' as a committed Conrophile, (if such a phrase could exist). Jack McCall is a sweeping character, and when the book opens, we find he and his daughter ensconced away in Rome after a family tragedy. What follows is a story that, in my opinion, weaves a brilliant quilt of familiarl ...more
Jul 17, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-fiction
While competently written and quite entertaining, Beach Music tries to be too many books in one. I didn't think the various aspects of the story resonated with each other enough to belong in the same book. I felt that Conroy could have written three tighter novels with the material he packed into this one loose one. For example, the long backstory about Lucy's childhood, while interesting, could have been shortened considerably or left to the imagination. It was enough to know she wasn't "of goo ...more
Jul 04, 2008 Jodie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really beautifully written story.
I've purchased this book no less than 4 different times. Every time someone saw it they wanted to borrow it and somehow it never got returned. My mother-in-law filched the last copy I bought and she SWEARS it belongs to her.

I picked up yet another copy to take away with me and read while traveling and am truly enjoying re-discovering just how wonderful it is to read Pat Conroy.

I'm so pleased to have picked this book up again. What a joy to read such art
Feb 08, 2009 Matthew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who can stand sappy writing
Recommended to Matthew by: One of my tenth grade students
I was initially skeptical about starting up one of these "blockbuster" novels, but Beach Music's prologue was surprisingly well written and I found myself strangely captivated to read on. As a testament to the quality of that prologue, I waded through a couple hundred pages of overwrought and overweight storytelling just to find some closure on the Jack McCall's wife's suicide mystery. There would be times in my reading when I had to look away from the book because the prose would be so sentimen ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nov 11, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Scott D.
Prior to reading Beach Music, I had only experienced Conroy in his reading memoir, My Reading Life. Since I knew he would be at the SC Book Festival, I spent most of my reading time this past week coming back to this book. I had started it on a beach trip with my sister over spring break, but some of the topics were a little too close to me at that time.

Jack, the main character in this novel, has lived in Rome with his daughter Leah ever since his wife Shyla committed suicide and he had a very c
Dec 30, 2009 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can count on one hand the number of books that have made me cry. This is one of them. I chose this book because its cold here in Minnesota this time of year and I wanted to be whisked back to warm South Carolina, a state I've been privileged to live in. South Carolina gets into your blood and so does Conroy. He's simply a master of words, some of his descriptions so achingly beautiful that I had to reread them just to see if I had imagined them.

This is a brutal book touching on the topics of
Aug 17, 2010 Randy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read Beach Music twice. After the first reading, 15 years ago, I decided it was one of the best books I'd ever read. Now, in 2010, I finally re-read it and came to the exact same conclusion. It is simply a brilliant, complex work that few writers other than Pat Conroy would even attempt to pull off.

Those who don't like the book usually focus on its length (nearly 800 pages), and what they call the "indistinguishable" brothers. When it comes to book length, my view is that a bad book at 50 p
Oct 05, 2007 Ngaire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-loved
I fell in love with Pat Conroy's writing while on holiday at Hunting Island, South Carolina - it was accidental though, my professor at grad school had reccomended him and I thought it looked like a good meaty read for a beach holiday. I didn't have any idea that he sets most of his books there and is from there. But it just hooked me in and I could hardly put it down to even walk down to the beach from our camp site. This might very well be up there with Diana Wynne Jones's A Tale of Time City ...more
Aug 30, 2010 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. Really, I did. The opening paragraph (a stunning, lyrical evocation of a young woman’s suicide) drew me into the sprawling, eight hundred page tome. At first glance, the book seemed to have all the elements of a rip-roaring good yarn: betrayal, forgiveness, intergenerational conflict, and a number of love affairs thrown in for good measure.

At the story’s start, we meet main character Jack McCall, who (with only his daughter, Leah, for company) is livin
Mar 25, 2016 Les rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Original Notes (1996):


I think this has to be one of the very best books I've ever read. I couldn't put it down and didn't want it to end. I want to read everything Pat Conroy has ever written. He writes the most beautiful sentences and I felt like I could see, hear, taste and smell everything he described. The characters became a part of me. I laughed. I cried. What a beautiful, lyrical book. I recommend it to everyone. Rod read it in a few days and enjoyed it, too.

My Current Thought
Jan 14, 2009 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love almost anything by Conroy, but this - in my humble opinion - is his greatest masterpiece. My husband used to read this book to me when we were dating (he in Colorado and I in Athens, GA), and when we ran out of things to talk about, he would read to me about Jack McCall. Conroy tells some beautiful (albeit sometimes, heavy)stories. He paints gorgeous pictures of Italy, South Carolina, and some heartwrenching tales of the life of a man trying to escape his past. My favorite moment in the b ...more
Jan 05, 2011 Misty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, favorites
I have read this book at least a dozen times, and it remains one of my very favorites. I can't recommend it enough.

The story centers around Jack McCall, who leaves his home in South Carolina and moves to Italy with his daughter, Leah, after losing his wife. The story follows Jack and Leah as they make a new life in Italy, eventually return to South Carolina, and cope with the loss of their beloved wife and mother. There are interesting subplots throughout, along with beautifully written characte
Ella Burakowski
Sep 19, 2010 Ella Burakowski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Patrick Conroy hurls words and ideas at you and they all land in a perfectly harmonized formation of drama, humor and outrageously engaging characters. His gift for creating characters from words on a page to larger than life people is magnificent. Beach Music incorporates some very difficult topics and weaves together a number of complex story lines, which intertwine in this multi generational epic. In all his books he is excellent at depicting dysfunction in families and this book is no except ...more
Jun 26, 2015 Leona rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Do I have a category for "mess"? Nope.
What about "sensationalistic drivel"? Nope.

Maybe I should be grateful and take it as a good sign that I have not had to waste hours reading books that never should have been written. I just prodded through 628 pages of everything but the kitchen sink:

Vietnam Riots
Child Abuse
Wife Abuse
Appalachian tragedies
Rescue of Sea Turtles
Incarceration...and I am only half through.

What a disaster. Pat Conroy squeezed so m
Aug 03, 2008 megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southernlit
A good epic southern novel. I forgot how much fun it was to read these types of books full of family drama, unrealistic and over-the-top characters, and some good old romance.

I remember really enjoying Conroy's Prince of Tides when I read it back as the oldest 10th grader you'll ever know--this book has a similar feel to it. Jack McCall has fled to Rome after his wife commits suicide. He takes his daughter, Leah, with him and vows never to return to the South as there are too many painful memor
Feb 02, 2009 Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the American South and Rome, this is one of my all time favorite books. Would give it 10 stars if I could. I loved the complex family dynamic AND the food descriptions. I really enjoy reading people's descriptions of food.* One of the main characters is a food critic and he discusses the meals be prepares for his broken family at various points in his life. This character also finds cooking soothing and a way to escape; I'm happy for this character that he has a job that is one of his pas ...more
This one covers the same ground as "Prince of Tides," but not nearly as well. "Prince of Tides" was compelling and the writing was beautiful, but "Beach Music" rambles. I wanted to find out what happened, but I just got tired of slogging through it all...
Jan 09, 2009 Loni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this a while back, but reread parts of it over the holidays and gave it as a gift to my brother Bill. It deals with several friends who grew up together in the 60's. They had various family problems -- one was a child of holocaust survivors, another had a physically and verbally abusive father, while yet another had an alcoholic father and a weak (terrified) mother. Because we grew up with an abusive step-father and an alcoholic father, it was the first book I ever read that I could actua ...more
I guess this goes on the "mainstream" shelf...the fact that it's the only book there right now says something about my tastes in reading. Anyway, I bushing loved this book. The end.

Oh, well, I guess I could go into some detail. The characters are fun, the stories they have are enthralling, and the settings are wonderfully described. The plot moves in a less-than-linear fashion, with flashbacks forming a significant portion of the book, but that's just fine.

And not only are the characters fun, th
Jul 07, 2013 Toni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In true Pat Conroy style, I was longing to visit Rome and the Charleston area again. Just wanted to get on a plane and toss a coin between the two and tell the pilot, "let's go to...".
Pat Conroy is a master storyteller and has you loving all the characters for different reasons. I laughed, cried and sometimes both at the same time.

A must read for anyone. No wonder so many of his books have been made into movies!!
Apr 23, 2009 Lindsay rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
are you at the beach and want a pile of crap to read? THIS IS PERFECT.
Susan Freeman
Mar 27, 2017 Susan Freeman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book. I had high hopes of immersing myself into a 628 page indulgence. I was prepared to be wowed and was overwhelmed instead. I cannot begin to summarize the plot, and won't waste your time in doing so because it was all over the map. Beach Music contains enough material and subplots to write several more novels. I found it tedious. I did not fall in love with any of its characters and frankly was in agony while determined to reach page 628. I apologize to the family of Pa ...more
Jul 22, 2014 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-fiction
I read this book a good 20 years ago before I really knew who Pat Conroy was and before I became enamored with his rambling and admittedly sappy (at times) writing style. Before I became familiar with the demons of abuse and family dysfunction he used his writing to fight. Before I became entrenched in his languid southern prose and meandering southern stories. Before I fell in love with Pat Conroy. Rereading it in light of my fascination with his South Carolina low country and his personal stor ...more
Sep 11, 2008 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, southern
Tedious. Tedious and self-indulgent. And I say that being a Pat Conroy fan! I felt like Conroy was throwing everything and the kitchen sink, and doing little of it well. He starts out the story with the suicide of his wife, which causes him to leave the country with their daughter to move to Italy after a heinous custody battle with his in-laws, only to be brought back to his Carolina home to possibly make a movie about his time he spent in the 60s protesting the war. Or something like that. The ...more
Feb 02, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book many, many years ago, and at that time, it was my favorite all time book. I just finished reading it again because it was one that I recommended along with Laura. I wanted to see if I still enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.

The answer is yes, I really enjoyed this book, but it is not my all time favorite now. I still characterize this book as "a slice of life" book because it is about a dysfunctional family, or rather 3 dysfunctional families! Aren't all families dysfun
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  • Outer Banks
  • Charleston
  • Isle of Palms (Lowcountry Tales, #3)
  • Queen of Broken Hearts
  • When All the World Was Young
  • Saints at the River
  • The Beach House
Pat Conroy (1945 - 2016) was the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Wate ...more
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“Music could ache and hurt, that beautiful music was a place a suffering man could hide.” 303 likes
“American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.” 142 likes
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