L's Reviews > South of Broad

South of Broad by Pat Conroy
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's review
Jul 03, 12

Half way through the Prologue I almost packed it in. But I'm nothing if not stubborn, so I continued. By the end of the first chapter I was hooked. Come on--finding out at the age of 18 that your mother used to be a nun? (And is she about as cold and hard a mother as I've seen in a book in quite some time? Whew!) Getting your first kiss by a girl, and by a boy, at the same time? This called for a number of late nights. There is a lot going here about people, about love, about growing up and older, about family, and more. The novel also is frustrating and disturbing.

Conroy does beautiful, lush description. I love it. It also drives me crazy at times, because his his words get in the way of the story. I suppose that lushness of language is about atmosphere, Charleston (or the South, more generally), but at key points of danger/action/change, it seemed self-indulgent.

The characters, all but one, either are good, are mostly good, or have goodness waiting to be exposed. The most virulent of racists either come around or have other qualitites to "make up for" their racism. Most of the key characters are privileged or fall into privilege. Except for the Black folks. They are few. They work hard, very hard. And they get to be friends with the privileged whites. In fact, this another one of those tales of the south that shows us how progressive Southern whites always were. I'm sure there were those people. But they don't seem to have been the dominant cultural, political, or powerful forces in the South. Except in fiction. Hence the two stars. A more honest novel, with all the other issues, would have rated much higher.

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