on December 21, 2003
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.
on March 24, 2004
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
on March 21, 2004
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.
on October 4, 2002
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.
on March 20, 2002
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.
on March 15, 2002
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...
on February 17, 2002
Reading Pat Conroy is like reading poetry. His stories are filled with unforgetable sadness and non-stop humor. Conroys uprecendented strengths as a writer are once again on display in Beach Music. His charecters are complex and wonderfully developed. You'll find yourself falling in love with the books many "relationships." A story of family and love and all the problems inbetween, it doesnt get any better then this. If you enjoyed Conroys other masterpieces (Prince of Tides, Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini), then you will surely rate this among your favorites. If this is your first Conroy read and you enjoy it, consider yourself lucky that you are able to read his other works. I would do anything to read any of his books for the first time.
I always find it difficult to find bad things about Conroys books, but I will try to highlight some possible dislikes people might have. This book is a very complex book, with very complex topics. People who like "soft" reads will probably find this book hard to stomach. It deals with array of subjects from family disfunction and suicide to The Holocaust. It may not be for the unsentimental or the unemotional type.
on October 21, 2001
To read a book by Pat Conroy is to come to the realization that so much of everything else I read, and think is good, is truly just an appetizer getting me ready for the main course -- which is what Conroy is. Every sentence you read lures you into the web of Conroy's storytelling. This is a book that will take you from the piazzas in Rome to the low country of South Carolina. You will fall so deeply in love with each setting that you couldn't possibly decide which place you would prefer to live.
Every character is a tortured soul who has a tale to tell -- one more heartbreaking than the other. The main story follows Jack McCall, who flees to Rome with his young daughter Leah after his beloved wife Shyla has committed suicide. He leaves behind a bevy of colorful family and friends in an effort to escape his torment and begin a new life in a new land. As a travel writer by trade, Jack is able to pick up and live wherever he chooses. It is a telegram from a family member that will finally bring Jack back to South Carolina to face his demons and learn the stories of all those he loves.
Conroy has the ability of dropping crumbs along the way leading you to each character's hidden story. He touches on times in history involving the Holocaust and the Vietnam War -- each decade so real that I don't even want to think about the horrors. But it is these horrors that have come to shape the characters whose cards have been dealt and whose hands must be played. They are all part of a finely interwoven story with South Carolina as the stage for the grand finale.
In reading the book, I can only wonder if the author can write the last twenty pages and not cry himself. I don't usually cry when reading a book but I must admit that this one did me in. Conroy so neatly ties up all the loose ends so that the reader feels no need for a sequel as they are confident that the lives of the characters they have come to love will go on.
While this is a book about tortured souls, it is also a book that holds great promise filled with love and hope and devotion and yes...redemption. We always talk about the books that will stay with us forever. This is one for me...music to my ears...Beach Music that is.
on September 24, 2001
This book is set in South Carolina and Rome.
This is one of the first books I've read by Pat Conroy and it is one of the deepest I've read in my life. I found it quite educational as it introduced me to South Carolina, a state I had never visited and felt a great urge to do so afterwards. It was also educational in inviting readers to see the holocaust from the point of view of suicide victim Shyla.
The main character Jack McCall has left his homeland of South Carolina with his young daughter Leah to flee the mental anguish he is suffering as a a result of the suicidal death of his beautiful wife Shyla. Shyla had thrown herself to her own death when life became too much for her.
Jack and Leah take to Rome where he spends his days in isolation writing cook books and trying to forget. However, after some time in Rome, it isn't long before his telephone is ringing and he is being begged to return to the USA. His mother Lucy has learnt that she has cancer, one of his brothers is giving trouble; all sorts of things are surfacing in the South, ready to
interrupt Jack's hibernation. His dysfuntional family needs him back there to straighten things out.....they cannot function without him.
With a great deal of relutance, Jack and his daughter Leah return home and the haunting horrors which he has tried so hard to black out, flood back into his memory; inviting sometimes short-lived humour, deep sadness, unfinished business and quite a lot of 'what ifs?'
The characters in this book are bright sparks and will stay with you forever, especially Jack's mother Lucy, his brothers, his father and his special school friend Jordan whose character you're bound to be facinated with along with so many others.
This novel is quite long but as the author unravels the cause of Shyla's suicide, you'll find yourself savouring the details which adds very much depth to the storyline. Another one of those books that I'll definitely be rereading. I only hope that Mr. Contoy has another spectacular one in the works for us soon, but in the meanwhile, you can dance to Beach Music which I highly recommend. Buy from Amazon today!!
September 24th 2001
on June 16, 2001
Once, when a teenager, a friend, 300lbs +, and I were wrestling. At one point he fell full weight on top of me. It was fun and exciting, but I was almost crushed and overcome by his mass. But, we wrestled again another day anyway becuase it was fun and the type of things teen boys do. This is what reading a Pat Conroy book is like. There is so much of it, you are almost overcome by its mass, yet you enjoy it. I am not always sure why everything is there, but I am always glad it is there. Growing up in South Carolina, it seems that we have the same background music of life. Yet, my family was good and loving and somewhat normal. But, as a human being we all experiance suffering, heartbreak, joy, love and death. Pat Conroy piles it all on us the readers and we cannot resist coming back for more. His prose are often like poetry. His stories within the story are akways done in a big way. Nothing is subtle, yet, somehow he most often remains very sensitive. Cry and laugh and enjoy. Pat Conroy's books are irresitable.