#250 ~ South of Broad

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

Published by: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Published on: August 2009

Page Count: 528

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Review copy sent to me by the publisher

Availability: hardcover, eBook, and audio book

Giveaway: The publisher is graciously allowing me to giveaway one trade paperback copy of South of Broad to one of my readers.  Please see the end of this review for more details.

tlc-logo-resizedToday it is my great pleasure to be Pat Conroy’s host on his TLC Book Tour for his novel, South of Broad.  I would like to thank his publisher for sending me a review copy.  I would also like to thank them for providing a copy to giveaway on this blog!  Please see the end of my review for a list of the blogs who are on this tour with me.

I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours.  They always have great books and authors on tour.  Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.

My Review

Leopold Bloom King has a great deal to live up to.  He’s named after James Joyce’s most famous characters and his mother, a former Roman Catholic nun, is his local school principal.  After the suicide death of his older, beloved brother, Leo has trouble dealing with his own grief and the weight of knowing that he can never live up his brother Steve’s potential.  He spends much of his adolescent years in treatment for mental illness, including a stay at a mental hospital.  As a high school freshman he finally returns back to the world only to be arrested on a serious drug charge.  His life is a mess on Bloomsday of 1969, the day his mother asks him a few favors.  Those favors lead him back into a normal life and introduce him to the first friends he’s ever had in his peer group.  His life is forever changed, but not without a price.

There is so much going on in South of Broad.  it is split up into two time periods – the 1969-1970 school year, and 1989.  Half of the time, it’s like reading about the grandparents of the cast of Glee during the prime of their lives.  You have a misfit band of high school students thrown together by circumstances not always to their liking.  In addition to awkward middle class Leo, there are the glamor twins Sheba and Trevor, the high society trio of Chad, Fraser, and Molly (doesn’t every Leo need his Molly?), the near-wild orphans Niles, Starla, and Betty, and finally Ike, the son of Peninsula High School’s first black football coach.  During their senior year of high school, the adults create just as much havoc for them as their own fumblings toward adulthood.  The other half is like attending a 20-year high school reunion.  You see how their beginnings shaped their lives.  You see how single events can have shocking and far-reaching impacts long down the road.

As Leo’s group of friends range from just about every social class in Charleston during a time of desegregation, they had to cover a great deal of new territory in order to make their friendships work in the beginning and last over the long haul.  Perhaps in order to mask their insecurities and discomfort, they were often sarcastic with each other, relying on stereotypes and not-so-PC name calling.  After a while, this got to be a bit much for me.  I would hope that after 20 years I wouldn’t need to hide behind my classifications within society to communicate with my friends – regardless of the region in which I grew up.  I wished that as the characters grew into adulthood that they would have developed a little more in that way as well.  It kept me an arm’s distance away from the characters, muting what might have otherwise a much more emotional experience.

One of the toughest and most fulfilling classes I took as an undergraduate (or even as a graduate student) was devoted to studying James Joyce.  I studied with an amazing professor and have been forever proud of my accomplishment of reading that book.  For this reason, I connected with South of Broad immediately.  It made my heart happy how the book began and ended on Bloomsday.  Despite Leo and his father’s propensity to roll their eyes at her, I know exactly what excited Leo’s mother about Ulysses.  Conroy’s inclusion of Ulysses wasn’t simply name dropping.  South of Broad shares the themes of class structure and faith with Ulysses.  Leo’s paper route brought me directly into Charleston, giving the story the same strong a sense of place that Joyce did.  Despite not getting as close to the characters as I would have liked, I loved this novel and look forward to reading more of Conroy’s work.


For a chance to win a trade paperback copy of South of Broad, leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm EST on Sunday, May 2nd.  In your comment, tell me about a novel you read and enjoyed that referred to another classic book that you loved.  I’ve found that I really like that combination.


Pat Conroy’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Now that you know what I think, why not check out these other reviews?

Thursday, April 1st:  Jen’s Book Thoughts

Monday, April 5th:  Lit and Life

Tuesday, April 6th:  Rundpinne

Wednesday, April 7th:  Meanderings and Muses

Friday, April 9th:  Luxury Reading

Monday, April 12th:  Books and Cooks

Tuesday, April 13th:  The Brain Lair

Wednesday, April 14th: Po(sey) Sessions

Thursday, April 15th:  Raging Bibliomania

Monday, April 19th:  Life in the Thumb

Tuesday, April 20th:  Maggie Reads

Thursday, April 22nd:  Stephanie’s Written Word

Friday, April 23rd:  Sherri’s Jubilee

Tuesday, April 27th:  Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, April 28th:  Library Queue

Thursday, April 29th:  Lakeside Musing

Friday, April 30th:  A Circle of Books


  • At 2010.04.26 09:06, Linda B said:

    Interesting review. I’ve enjoyed other books by Pat Conroy, esp. Beach Music.

    Alan Bennett’s brief, but delightful book, The Uncommon Reader, was full of titles of other great books and the queen’s reaction to them. That certainly added to the enjoyment of that book.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    • At 2010.04.26 09:21, Sandy said:

      I have a very deep love for Conroy due to The Prince of Tides and Beach Music. There is so much atmosphere in his novels! I have heard some really lukewarm, mixed reviews on this one though, which is why I have hesitated to read it. I am afraid the magic spell will be broken.

      • At 2010.04.26 09:50, Lisa (Books and Cooks) said:

        I was so happy to be included in this book tour also. I loved South of Broad and got lost in Conroy’s writing.

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        • At 2010.04.26 11:17, Shelley said:

          I don’t know that these are favorites of mine, but the first thing that comes to mind is Mrs. Dalloway/The Hours. It was very interesting seeing how the two relate to one another.
          Thanks for the giveaway!

          saz AT chainreader DOT com

          • At 2010.04.26 11:30, Lisa said:

            I had the same problem with the name calling and sarcasm between the friends, especially after 20 yrs. If they were such great friends, why were they constantly doing that battle? Also I felt like Sheba and Trevor’s father’s role could easily have been cut way back and not have hurt the story at all.

            • At 2010.04.26 14:17, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

              I am really looking forward to reading this book! No need to enter me in the giveaway.

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              • At 2010.04.26 14:18, Lisa Munley said:

                Wow, how interesting that you had that unusual connection, having studied James Joyce and Ulysses.. that’s just crazy!! I bet you’re the only reviewer on the tour who would recognize the parallel themes.

                Great review, Jennifer! I’m so happy you enjoyed the book. Thanks so much for being on the tour!

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                    • At 2010.04.26 15:41, Christine H said:

                      I’d like to be entered but I can’t answer your question. I actually just started reading. I’ve gone 35 years without ever reading anything beyond Danny and the dinosaur. It’s true I never ever read growing up, but now that I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands I’ve picked it up and I’m amazed by how much I love it. So far I’ve been very picking about what I read. I figure the contest if I win I can try a new author. If you can still add me, I’d love it. If that’s ok too.

                      Thanks, Christine H

                      • At 2010.04.26 16:41, Kelly Bookend Diaries said:

                        I would love to win a copy this book to read. I have been to Charleston South Carolina for vacation and this looks like a wonderful book.
                        Kelly Bookend Diaries

                        • At 2010.04.26 16:56, Rebekah (Mrs. O'Dell Reads) said:

                          I really loved Netherland by Joseph O’Neill — lots of references to The Great Gatsby.

                          • At 2010.04.27 14:07, plumbean said:

                            i just read conroy’s beach music and loved it. he shies away from nothing and the result is genius. so excited to read this.

                            • At 2010.04.28 13:26, S. Krishna said:

                              Great review! I have this book but haven’t gotten around to reading it. I’ll have to move it up on the TBR pile! (and since I have it, clearly no need to enter me in the giveaway)

                              • At 2010.05.02 01:19, Chris said:

                                I really enjoyed Hester, a new novel about the “missing years” of Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter. It refers to the plot of Hawthorne’s book and reminded me how much I had loved The Scarlet Letter in high school and college. And related to Pat Conroy, my mom called me yesterday raving about South of Broad and telling me I had to read it. I promptly ordered a copy for my sister who lives near Charleston. Since Beach Music is one of my all-time favorite books, I would LOVE to win this book in the giveaway. Thanks for your review. I’m excited to read his new book.

                                • At 2010.05.02 22:01, CherylS22 said:

                                  Right now I’m reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” & it refers back to books written by the Bronte sisters (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre) as well as those by Charles Lamb. Thanks for the giveaway!

                                  • At 2010.05.03 09:22, Mystica said:

                                    I am not able to answer your question but would like to be entered in this giveaway if that is possible!

                                    • […] Why not pick up a copy of South of Broad by Pat Conroy? It’s fully of Joycian references and imagery. The main character is named […]

                                      (Required, will not be published)

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