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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding Storytelling
Southern Fiction to dwell in, Mr. Conroy is a talented storyteller and knits together a most amazing novel. Holocaust survivor stories meet a coming of age in the 60s tale, seasoned with sand and sea, betrayals, mental illness and drunkenness, which then evolves into a novel of family, faith, friends and forgiveness. There are numerous vivid and emotionally rich stories...
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Mamalinde

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3.0 out of 5 stars Beach Music could have been better
I love a book that you can really sink your teeth into. I love a great story that offers a story within a story, espescially when it eventually completes a puzzle. I love a satisfying ending, even if it isn't necessarily a happy one.
Beach Music was frustratingly close to all of these things, but it never quite got there. I'm not sure why the author chose to no go...
Published on March 26 2004 by Daniel Swanson


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding Storytelling, Dec 21 2003
This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
Southern Fiction to dwell in, Mr. Conroy is a talented storyteller and knits together a most amazing novel. Holocaust survivor stories meet a coming of age in the 60s tale, seasoned with sand and sea, betrayals, mental illness and drunkenness, which then evolves into a novel of family, faith, friends and forgiveness. There are numerous vivid and emotionally rich stories within this book, and many social statements. The language is stunningly brilliant, the characterizations are almost caricatures but somehow quite believable. A multilayered book, that not only maps out the city of Rome, but which is rich in the cadence of the South (specifically low country of South Carolina) with side trips to California, Minnesota, the hills of Appalachia, Canada and Nazi occupied Europe. Between the places and the stories, music and food weave in and out, and this was a book I was sad to finish. Crossing my fingers for a film and a soundtrack to go along with it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but could have been three books, July 13 2004
By 
Larry Hand (Woodstock, GA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
For a book that curiously begins with an error in the first sentence (the "Silas Pearlman Bridge in Charleston" is really the Silas Pearman Bridge), this is a fine read. Perhaps the change in spelling is literary license. After 500 pages down and 300 to go, I was ready to drive to Charleston and throw the book over the bridge from which Shyla leapt. However, I'm afraid of heights and, since the book was heavy enough to kill a whale if it hit him on the head, I decided to just finish it. It was a richly rewarding experience.
Still, I was left with the feeling that I had read three different books rolled into one. The material relating to the holocaust could have been incorporated into one standalone book, the story of Jack and his friends would have made a great vacation read all by itself, and the story of Jack and his family would have been a wonderful third book. Beach Music is a good thing, but maybe too much of a good thing. Anyway, I loved the story but wished the descriptions of food, marshes, cities, sunsets, sunrises, so forth and so on could have been shorter. At 800 pages, even a masterpiece can be laborious. No doubt though, Conroy should never be speed-read, just as Mozart should never be fast-played.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Beach Music could have been better, March 26 2004
By 
Daniel Swanson "tswanson" (Maplewood, MN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
I love a book that you can really sink your teeth into. I love a great story that offers a story within a story, espescially when it eventually completes a puzzle. I love a satisfying ending, even if it isn't necessarily a happy one.
Beach Music was frustratingly close to all of these things, but it never quite got there. I'm not sure why the author chose to no go the entire mile in many parts of this book. Don't get me wrong: I didn't HATE it. I just think it missed the mark on a lot of points.
The main characters interactions with his family were not quite believable. The conversations and actions seemed forced by the author. I mean, do people really talk this way to each other? I loved the Mother character and thought Conroy did a great job explaining a portion of her background. I kept looking for the rest of it, however, and it never materialized. Same thing with the main characters former in-laws. Explanations never came to be. What exactly happened between him and his mother? In the present tense, they seemed to get along fine but the main character kept deferring to his terrible childhood. There was not even one sentence explaining what was so terrible in the book.
It was ok. I was just kept looking for more. I'm not real excited about reading another Conroy novel. He seems a little lazy to me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for even novice readers, March 24 2004
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This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
I usually only read certain authors and this book was given to me by a client and I really was not entertaining the fact of reading this book. I thought that I would just add just another useless book to the library to look at...yeah right. I picked this book up and I swear that if it was not for the need to eat, sleep, clean, and work I would have had this book done in no time at all. I just couldn't wait till I had time to read it next. Something new is always happening and it keeps you wanting to know more. I think that this was a very good book to cuddle up to at night and dream about while I was sleeping ... the characters were not really described all that well but after a while you start getting your own description of them in your head and what a book to read while working and trying to get away from the office if only for a few minutes. I seriously recommend reading this book even if only to see what it is about. I tell you this ... give it some time and it will grow on you and it will be a book to remember
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing, March 21 2004
This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
Beach Music is about Jack McCall, an American living in Rome with his young daughter, trying to make peace after the recent shock of his wife's suicide. But his loneliness is disturbed by the appearance of his sister-in-law, who begs him to return home to his dying mother, and of two school friends asking for his help in tracking down another classmate who went underground as a Vietnam protester and never resurfaced. These requests catapult Jack on a journey that takes in the past and the present in both Europe and the American South, and that leads him to shocking and eventual liberating facts.
(...) I would recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense and great storytelling. As a writer Conroy has the ability to make you hate the characters then totally reverse that thought and love them by the end of the book. He also captures the setting through detailed descriptions that truly make you feel like you are there and actually witnessing the story. The story is of love and hate and what a thin line they are. With twists and ethical dilemmas, Beach Music, is a great book for anyone to read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Flashes of brilliance..., Feb. 14 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Beach Music (Hardcover)
...were not enough to save this book. I bought this book based on a friend's recommendation and on my love of "My Losing Season". Conroy certainly has a flair for the English language, and some of his introspections and descriptions of the world around him are simply impeccable. That said, this is one of the most pretentious books I have ever read. Additionally, the dialogue in this novel was so flippant and trite that it made me cringe whenever I stumbled upon a scene where Jack was talking to either his daughter or to his four brothers.
Jack is an American expatriate living in Rome with his young daughter after his wife, Shyla, committed suicide in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. Various events bring Jack back home, among them his mother's struggles with leukemia, his Hollywood producer's friend's idea to make a movie about their childhood, and memories of the beautiful Shyla. Do you see a pattern here? This book covers nearly every topic known to literature: cancer; sexual assault; true love; courtroom drama; racism; schizophrenia and assorted mental illnesses; the Holocaust, the Vietnam War; suicide; terrorist attacks; and the extinction of the loggerhead turtle.
Simply put, this book is a little overly ambitious. Sometimes less is more. And some areas I wish Conroy had explained a little seemed to be devoid of detail and/or explanation. For example, Jack repeatedly refers to his horrible childhood and lays blame with his mother, Lucy. However, readers are never really told what Lucy did that was so horrible. For the most part, throughout the book, Conroy paints Lucy as a saint who saves the loggerhead turtle, does her best to diffuse racism in the south, and prepares her sons for her imminent death with grace and dignity. Perhaps the worst part of the book is the dialogue between Jack and his four brothers with the unbelievably pretentious names (i.e. "Dupree"). At all times, the brothers engage in a battle as to who can be the most sarcastic and witty, and the banter simply seems false and tiresome.
All of that aside, the story did have its moments. The stories concerning the Holocaust were riveting and some of the descriptions of nature and Rome were flawless. This book simply lacked an authenticity that I found so touching in "My Losing Season." What could have been a beautiful, and much simpler, story was cluttered with too much witty repertee and an attempt to tackle too many serious subjects at once.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking story, Oct. 4 2002
This review is from: Beach Music (Hardcover)
I've heard people have been tinkering with the idea of making a movie of this, starring Brad Pitt. I almost hope they don't try, as it would be very difficult to capture this story in even a three hour movie without blowing the balance of characters in this story somehow. The cutting of any character's story would probably ruin it.
This is one whopping good tale that somehow connects the Holocaust with South Carolina from the 50's to the 80's. It is the story of a group of friends, mostly four young men and two women, who grow up together, share the pain and/or abuse of their parents, drift irrevocably apart (or do they?), and come together to try and put the pieces of the whole story together.
It is not giving anything that is not on the dust jacket to say that one of the six committed suicide. One is a fugitive. One is in self-imposed exile. One is a politician trying to use the former assocations for political gain. And another just happens to be a movie producer who thinks the public would love to see on the screen what we are treated to in the book.
The story takes the reader back and forth in time for the six main characters. But almost as important are the parents of several of them. While The Big Six all have their problems and flaws, it is the story of some of these parents that really grabs you. I've mentioned the Holocaust, and it's no surprise that this breaks your heart, albeit in ways, believe it or not, other than the usual atrocities we hear about. But once you think the lowest depths of human behavior have been reached, the story of another of the parents appears, and you see that it was not the case.
It is these supporting stories that, in my eyes, make the story really great. For just about all of The Big Six are big achievers to some extent. We get several head cheerleaders, an aspiring governor, a famous writer, and a movie producer. I would have preferred if these people weren't all so important, and that's why I love the stories of the parents. For these were ordinary people who both did bad things, and had extremely bad things done to them, mostly not through their fault. This is a long book, but the story also zooms by as you can't wait to see what happens next.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Occasional overwrought speechifying, but great storytelling., July 15 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
There's some great storytelling mixed in with the overwrought, purple prose.
My favorite character was the Great Dog Chippy. The male banter is pretty cute, too.
The first part of the book was simplistic, especially the
stereotypical depictions of girls and women, all of whom seem to have stepped out of Seventeen or Vogue. However, the descriptions of Rome and Venice were brilliant. Also, lovingly woven in are descriptions of luscious meals created by the food/travel critic-narrator.
Still, you have to get by this to be treated to some of the most
fascinating and harrowing stories you'll ever read in any book. This is Conroy's forte...the individual stories.
As a Jew, I was both touched and embarrassed by Conroy's interepretation of Holocaust history and Jewish culture. It's always a bit strange to hear your experience described in detail by someone who hasn't actually lived it...I suppose it's how some Black people feel when a Caucasion writes about Black culture. Still, it had its interesting moments. Of course, it's always suspicious when the Jews (or Blacks) are depicted as Huge Heroes and Heroines (as in Max, the "Great Jew.") It makes them outsized, and to some degree eradicates their normalcy , their ordinariness as simple human beings...
But then, everyone in this novel is out-size...larger than life. That's one of the problems with the book. Every single person and thing is huge, including the fish. If you will note from another great novel, "Moby Dick" - the only giants were Ahab and the whale. That kind of put things in perspective.
Still, a noble attempt and for the sheer joy of great storytelling, it's a "must" read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Music To My Ears, March 20 2002
This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
Pat Conroy is, more or less, the best modern American writer. Word truly seem to flow from his "pen"; his characters are captivating and well-developed; his descriptions, whether he's describing a person, place or thing, are unbelievable; and his plots are such dramas, filled with scenes that will make you laugh, make you shrink back in horror, and make you cry.
Beach Music is probably the best, and longest, of Conroy's books. The melodrama begins when Jack McCall, an Southerner who moved to Italy to raise his young daughter after his wife committed suicide, is called back to his home town--Waterford, SC--because his mother is dying. The book describes Jack and his four younger brothers (including wonderfully written scenes with his youngest, and craziest brother John Hardin--who happens to be my favorite character) as they struggle with their family's past, their mother's dying, and the pitiful-excuse-of-a-human-being that is their father.
Secondly, this book describes Jack's attempt to understand why his wife killed herself, and his attempt to reconcile with her family. This part of the book, Jack's in-laws' stories, are probably the hardest emotionally to read. Both of his in-laws were survivors of concentration camps, and their stories are truly heart-wrenching.
Thirdly, this book tells the tale of Jack reuniting with his best guy and girl friends from his teenage years. This part tells how Jack fell in love, how he met his best friend, and what happened to each of their lives. For whatever reason, this section of the book reminded me of the Big Chill (probably because of the reuniting of old friends), but I found this part very enjoyable.
Overall, this book is about a man having to look back--not necessarily reminisce, but to re-examine--on his past to try to solve problems he has with himself, his family, and with raising his daughter without including any family help. This book is very good, very powerful, and, personally, is a book I would take if I were stranded on a desert island.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing to Read, March 15 2002
By 
Gus Ramage (Charleston, SC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beach Music (Mass Market Paperback)
If Pat Conroy has has shown us anything is that he knows how to write a book. Like his other previous novels, Conroy carries on the tradition of fine Southern writers.
Beach Music is a story of life and death within a family in South Carolina. The personal touches of the book make it so vivid and interesting that it is often impossible to put down. Instead of being confused with all of the multiple characters in the novel, Conroy is so brilliant with his descriptions that you cannot forget anyone.
From Italy to the lowcountry of South Carolina, you are immersed in many different settings, each of them told in a memorable way that will ensure their memory.
My only frustration is with the book is that it did not win the Pulitzer several years ago. Over the years I have shared my copies with other people and they too were stunned by excellent the book is. Without a doubt it is Conroy's best work and on my favorites list. Though this book may be long, do not let it fool you, when reading it time slips by and you are finished in what seems like a few hours...
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Beach Music
Beach Music by Pat Conroy (Mass Market Paperback - June 1 1996)
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