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An American expatriate in Rome unearths his family legacy in this sweeping novel by the acclaimed author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini A Southerner living abroad, Jack McCall is scarred by tragedy and betrayal. His desperate desire to find peace after his wife’s suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family’s past An American expatriate in Rome unearths his family legacy in this sweeping novel by the acclaimed author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini A Southerner living abroad, Jack McCall is scarred by tragedy and betrayal. His desperate desire to find peace after his wife’s suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family’s past that can heal his anguished heart. Spanning three generations and two continents, from the contemporary ruins of the American South to the ancient ruins of Rome, from the unutterable horrors of the Holocaust to the lingering trauma of Vietnam, Beach Music sings with life’s pain and glory. It is a novel of lyric intensity and searing truth, another masterpiece among Pat Conroy’s legendary and beloved novels.


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An American expatriate in Rome unearths his family legacy in this sweeping novel by the acclaimed author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini A Southerner living abroad, Jack McCall is scarred by tragedy and betrayal. His desperate desire to find peace after his wife’s suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family’s past An American expatriate in Rome unearths his family legacy in this sweeping novel by the acclaimed author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini A Southerner living abroad, Jack McCall is scarred by tragedy and betrayal. His desperate desire to find peace after his wife’s suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family’s past that can heal his anguished heart. Spanning three generations and two continents, from the contemporary ruins of the American South to the ancient ruins of Rome, from the unutterable horrors of the Holocaust to the lingering trauma of Vietnam, Beach Music sings with life’s pain and glory. It is a novel of lyric intensity and searing truth, another masterpiece among Pat Conroy’s legendary and beloved novels.

30 review for Beach Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    JT

    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 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, ironically). But it's more than that. It's a novel about families and relationships, births and deaths, and coming of age. It's also a seriously wordy tome. 800 pages of very small type. It rambles in places, too. I could easily get rid of 200+ pages without affecting the main storyline one bit. The dialogue is sharp and, at times, quite funny. The characters are flawed, but likeable. But for all its faults, all you really need to know is that I had trouble putting it down.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    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 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 book "Citadel Forever, Pat Conroy." I'm such a jackass. I've read this book at least 3 times and I've cried at the ending all three times. The first time I was in a room full of prospective jurors waiting to be called for duty in Marietta, GA. I had to go to the restroom to finish the last page or two and collect myself before going back out into that room of 200 strangers. Beautiful, beautiful book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erin Rouleau

    Beautiful! 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 Beautiful! 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 know. I can stop trying to figure her out. That paragraph was insanely healing. I can't imagine the utter grief and loss he must have experienced in his lifetime - you can tell he writes what he knows. His knowledge on the holocaust was amazing also. It brought to light the idea of fear and how "to fear only cowardice" is so important, in life and if not followed allows the holocaust to happen and allows you to be reduced to sub human. I watched Moulin Rouge shortly after and realized how profound Toulouse's character is. The Bohemian Revolution has a negative conotation to it and yet I can see exactly where and why it sprung up when people allowed themselves to be reduced to dogs - not human at all anymore and really all that matters is truth, beauty and freedom and love. Without those elements we are nothing but cowards and there's no point to living. Like in the Mao regime - all based on fear - fear of what I don't know what was Mao afraid of to hate protest beauty enforcing grass to be picked?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    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 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 a mess. In the preface alone, all this happens: Shyla (Jack's wife) kills herself before their daughter is two years old; Shyla's parents sue Jack for custody of his daughter, claiming he's an unfit father and even lying in court that he beats his daughter; everyone believes that if Jack had only been a good husband and a good father, his wife would not have killed herself; Jack retains custody of his daughter not because he's actually a good father but because of a letter his wife wrote before she died; and Jack moves to Rome to be a travel writer there and escape his past. I feel exhausted just recapping that - and it was only the preface. Good grief. What more could happen in the next nearly-800 pages? Jack is conveniently everyone's confidant, he's at important places when big events happen, and he's pivotal to everyone. Let me give a rundown of the book's topics: -Family secrets. Shyla's sister-in-law tracks down Jack with a private investigator and says her family wants to make up with him and they realize he didn't kill Shyla, it was her mom who'd driven her to suicide! And if Jack would only let her explain, he'd understand. Also, they want to know his daughter and they have family secrets to share with him. -Suicide. Shyla's death is a huge factor in the book. Everyone seems to have the idea that Jack wasn't a good husband because of it. Jack even says that one of his high school friends would have put him on her list of available guys but since his wife killed herself, he's clearly not good husband material. Huh? -Hollywood! One of Jack's high school friends gets in touch with Jack; he's a big Hollywood producer now and wants Jack to write a miniseries about their childhoods. I understand that everyone thinks they have a story in them, and lots of people think the story of their lives would be a great movie, but dang. Really? This producer is convinced he needs Jack on board or it won't be a huge hit. -Abuse. There are abusive fathers and abusive pastors. There was also an incident in which Jack stopped a man from hitting a woman (everyone was in disbelief that Jack stood up to this beast!) and then ended up in jail for the night with his daughter by his side. Yeah. -Religion. Jack is Catholic and Shyla was Jewish. And yet they made it work! Everyone is shocked by the fact they worked so well together with this religious difference. -A faked death/disappearing act. One of their high school friends had supposedly died and everyone went to his memorial service, but the Hollywood producer claims the man is alive... and Jack knows where he is! This is actually true; the guy had faked his own death to get away from his abusive father and reinvented himself as a priest in Rome. Jack is the only friend who knows he's still alive. But how did everyone else hear the rumor that this guy had faked his own death? Simple: one of their old teachers, on vacation in Italy, went to confession and heard his voice as her confessor! Since she never forgets a voice, she immediately recognized who it was by voice alone and spread the word back home! -The Nazis. -Orphans. -The Vietnam War - Jack and his friends protest during this, all of which is shown in flashbacks. -Leukemia. Jack's mom is dying of cancer, which brings him back to the US. He's initially skeptical, because she'd faked cancer before for attention. -Schizophrenia. -Alcoholism. -Loggerhead turtles and their eggs. I could go on, but I won't. This book was so melodramatic, so sappy, that I felt as if I were reading a Lifetime Original Movie, only for men. And covering so many topics that it wasn't even movie-length. It was more like a seasons-long series that I'd never, ever want to actually watch. Jack's daughter, who plays a bigger role early on in the book but then gets sort of lost in the rest of the madness, is precocious and completely unbelievable. The dialogue between her and Jack is particularly awkward in a book filled with tedious conversations. She never acted her age, and the author wrote Jack in a way that tried to make him seem like the perfect, absolute perfect father doting on his perfect, absolutely perfect daughter, but it was done in such a sappy manner that they never actually felt real. The writing was also poor. It wasn't completely awful - it was readable - but it certainly wasn't stellar. The book did not need to be so long; the book sorely needed to be edited. An example of the purple prose: After we finished the pasta, I assembled a large army of greens and arranged them deftly until they took on a disheveled order. The olive oil was extra-virgin and recently pressed in Lucca and the vinegar was balsamic, black from its careful aging in rimmed barrels, and soon the smells of the kitchen coalesced to make me dizzy as I kissed the two women in my life and poured the wine to toast the health of the three of us. This is why the book ended up at nearly 800 pages. Jack has four brothers, three of whom blended together to the point that I couldn't distinguish between them; the fourth only stood out because he suffered from schizophrenia and would rant obnoxiously. It wasn't funny, it wasn't clever, and it didn't make for good filler material - especially since so much else was contained in this book! There was a random flashback when Jack visits Venice and he recalls another time when he'd visited Venice and a masked woman led him to her house, where she proceeds to have sex with him (in pretty explicit detail) and he realizes that she would never reveal her identity to him. It was rather odd, since it affected the plot in absolutely no way. Also: there was a Jewish man who'd moved to this town way back in the day, befriending Jack's grandparents, and everyone loved him. Everyone refers to him (to his face, behind his back) as The Great Jew. I am not joking. The Great Jew. I did like one short part of the book, a flashback in which Jack and some of his high school friends go fishing on the water and end up stranded for days, having to rely on the survival skills of one of them in order to live. This part was actually interesting. But that was it. And it wasn't worth the 500+ pages it took to get there. It also had no effect on the rest of the book. But then again, so much of the book had no effect on the rest of the book. Just when the book finally, FINALLY ends... there's more disappointment! There's an epilogue! As if more needed to be said about anything. But it was a way to jump forward in the future and show how perfect life had turned out for Jack. This was all done in a super sappy, melodramatic manner that seemed more fit for a made-for-TV movie-of-the-week than a supposedly big saga about family and whatever else. This book was awful and way too long; I skimmed most of it because it definitely was not worth the time to actually read. I would have stopped on page 2 if this hadn't been this month's book club pick. I can't believe this book has ANY good reviews, let alone the fact that the author is a bestseller!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate Dolack

    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 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 familiarly eccentric characters through various periods of the twentieth century. Conroy is excellent at exposing family drama while psychologically diving deep below the surface, yet almost entirely colored by the perspective of his Jack McCall. Conroy, the son of a Marine Aviator, did not grow up exclusively in the Charleston low-country, though he has called Charleston his adopted home. Given Conroy's incredible descriptions of low-country, as well as Rome, a reader might surmise that Conroy isn't really writing about a fictional Jack McCall, but more various facets of his own life disguised. Perhaps this is why I love 'Beach Music,' and Pat Conroy so very much: one gets less of a sense that they are reading complete fiction, but rather peeking into the diary of a literary great.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lp

    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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Metcalf

    Not so much a book as a life experience, Pat Conroy's Beach Music covers a heck of a lot of topics. Like his other titles this one has family and friendship are the forefront but the scope of this novel was vast covering alcoholism, suicide, schizophrenia, domestic violence, religion, the holocaust, the vietnam war, politics, trust, sickness, survival, and love in all shapes and sizes. He so thoroughly tackles each topic it sometimes felt like he'd written several books in one. Primarily set in Not so much a book as a life experience, Pat Conroy's Beach Music covers a heck of a lot of topics. Like his other titles this one has family and friendship are the forefront but the scope of this novel was vast covering alcoholism, suicide, schizophrenia, domestic violence, religion, the holocaust, the vietnam war, politics, trust, sickness, survival, and love in all shapes and sizes. He so thoroughly tackles each topic it sometimes felt like he'd written several books in one. Primarily set in Waterford, South Carolina, Beach Music is a family saga of epic proportions. From the very first sentence of the Prologue we learnt Jacks' wife Shyla suicided leaving him to raise their 2 year old daughter Leah. Shyla leapt to her death and was swept away just as we readers were swept into the drama of this magnificent book. Beach Music was a tribute to Shyla, to Southern families of all shapes and sizes, to enduring friendships and to reconciliation. As Jack leads us through his personal history and those of extended family, of friends and their families, the stories creep into progressively more difficult territory. Recollections of domestic violence within his own home and that of his friend Jordan. From his mothers desperately difficult redneck start to life, he progressed to sharing his in-laws experiences as European Jews. With entire chapters dedicated to the atrocities and horrors of WWII this made for horrendous reading. Jack recalls his experiences of resisting the Vietnam war, highlighting the divisiveness caused within American society, amongst family and friends, the strength of opinion and lengths people went to express their beliefs. Of course these are just some of the bigger topics and not all were gloom and doom. There were stories of flourishing friendships showing how trust was built as big and small life experiences were shared. There were stories of brotherly love, albeit expressed with sarcasm, humour and gruffness. The way those same brothers learnt to express their love in both words and deeds for their dying mum. There was the passing of the baton from grandmother to granddaughter for the care and protection of the loggerhead turtles. There was the delightful relationship between Jack and daughter Leah, and the stories of the Great dog Chippie. There was an element of intrigue as we waited to find out what had caused an irreparable rift between previously firm friends, and so the list goes on. As I sit and try to catalogue the high's and lows the list is long. For me, the the icing on the cake was the way it caused tears of both sadness and joy, and the fact that I never once tired of this book of almost 800 pages. As always Pat Conroy's writing was delicious, insightful and full of meaning. He's skilled at creating characters that step off the page, into your life and linger in your memory. But above all of this he is a master in the art of telling a story. I have a hunch these words (p249) attributed to Jack actually describe Pat Conroy himself. "We told stories to each other, and my brothers, like me, mark time by cherishing the details that stud the layers of each great story. They were Southern boys and they knew how to make a story sizzle when it hit the fat" . Thank you Pat Conroy, your story most definitely sizzled throughout and it made me cherish the details.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jodie

    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 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 artfully crafted prose. Conroy's writing is exquisite.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Pat Conroy has done it again! A fantastic 5 star audiobook on cassettes! I could not stop listening to this novel until it was finished! Wow! Thanks to my Goodreads friends who recommended this masterpiece with their excellent reviews. My only regret is that it has taken me until today to find BEACH MUSIC and read it. It is about love, childhood, dysfunctional families, horrors of World War II, abuse, growing up, university days, environmental issues, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, priesthood, Pat Conroy has done it again! A fantastic 5 star audiobook on cassettes! I could not stop listening to this novel until it was finished! Wow! Thanks to my Goodreads friends who recommended this masterpiece with their excellent reviews. My only regret is that it has taken me until today to find BEACH MUSIC and read it. It is about love, childhood, dysfunctional families, horrors of World War II, abuse, growing up, university days, environmental issues, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, priesthood, mental illness, leukaemia and death. The beautiful heartfelt writing and mesmerizing language of Pat Conroy drew me deep into this fabulous story. To quote my friend Sharon, "He's skilled at creating characters that step off the page, into your life and linger in your memory." I highly recommend this novel! 5 stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    Negin

    Pat Conroy wrote the beautiful introduction to one of my all-time favorite books, “Gone with the Wind”. My rule with classics, not that I read them as often as I probably should, is to read the introduction after completing the book. Once I finished “Gone with the Wind” and then read Conroy’s introduction, I knew that this would be an author that I need to look into. “Beach Music” is the first book that I have read by him. It grabbed me right from the start and I was hooked. Even though we were Pat Conroy wrote the beautiful introduction to one of my all-time favorite books, “Gone with the Wind”. My rule with classics, not that I read them as often as I probably should, is to read the introduction after completing the book. Once I finished “Gone with the Wind” and then read Conroy’s introduction, I knew that this would be an author that I need to look into. “Beach Music” is the first book that I have read by him. It grabbed me right from the start and I was hooked. Even though we were on vacation, it was often pretty much all that I could think about. Part of the story takes place in Italy, specifically Rome, and I finished this book right before we arrived there. Perfect timing! Here’s a picture that we took of the Piazza Navona in Rome. The writing is gorgeous. The story is riveting and had me laughing and crying. The characters are superb to the point where I missed them so very much after finishing the book. For me, that’s definitely a sign of a phenomenal book. While reading, I looked up Pat Conroy and was amazed at how quite a bit of the story is similar to his own life. I was reminded of a quote by P.D. James: “All fiction is largely autobiographical and much autobiography is, of course, fiction.” I can’t wait to read more books by him. How sad that he’s no longer with us. This is definitely my favorite book of 2018, and now one of my favorite books of all time. Some of my favorite quotes: “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.” “When you have been hurt you lose your trust in the world. If the world’s mean to you when you’re a child, you spend the rest of your life being mean back.” “I don’t know why it is that I have always been happier thinking of somewhere I have been or wanted to go, than where I am at the time. I find it difficult to be happy in the present.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I'm having a hard time kicking this review off, because there is just...so much. I finished this novel last night and have started another, but my head is still full of this story. When I was about 3/4 through the story, an image came to mind. You know when you place a drop of oil on a water surface and then that drop expands out? That's how this story structure seemed to evolve. Beach Music starts off with the main character talking about his wife, who had jumped off a South Carolina bridge to her I'm having a hard time kicking this review off, because there is just...so much. I finished this novel last night and have started another, but my head is still full of this story. When I was about 3/4 through the story, an image came to mind. You know when you place a drop of oil on a water surface and then that drop expands out? That's how this story structure seemed to evolve. Beach Music starts off with the main character talking about his wife, who had jumped off a South Carolina bridge to her death. He has started a new life in Rome with his young daughter. As Jack struggles to come to terms with his wife's suicide and recent developments in his life, the past is slowly revealed to us. His Southern past, and his friends and family's past. I thought Pat Conroy's story structure and even his pacing was brilliant. I say "even his pacing" because some of the more negative reviews I've seen have called this novel bloated and tedious. And that can be a fair assessment depending on how you approach it. I picked Beach Music off the to-read list after rejecting a good chunk of suspense novels that have started to dominate my list. At the time, the genre was becoming tiresome to me. The predictability of unreliable narrators, the obligatory twists, my eyes just glazed over them. I was in the mood for just a novel. Just a story with family drama and characters I could care about. I was tired of fast paced plotting. I was tired of racing through yet another hype of the month. Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides was one of my favorite novels ever (Lords of Discipline, not so much), so it was time to give him another shot. I was ready to settle back, and let a story unfold in my head. This story: I felt like I lived it. Pat Conroy was in no rush to tell this story. There are many paths taken and thoughts to consider, so the reader should not be in a rush to have the story (stories) told. My head is full. So many parts to this story will continue to linger with me and in some ways it's a burden...I want to move on and enjoy my next read. But in other ways it's wonderful. I must say that the only negative thing here was how I felt about the second-last chapter or so...the "gathering" was a bit of a reach for me. But this is a very small thing in the grand scheme, and easily forgettable (I had completed this review and forgot to mention it...until just now). It's going to take a while to shake this novel off. Five stars for that. A brilliant read that I would recommend to anyone.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    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 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 good breeding" and had gone to great lengths to compensate. The Great Jew's childhood story also seemed to belong in another book, as well. All these separate characters' stories gave the novel the feeling of a series of vignettes instead of a tightly wound together whole. For me, the novel was all over the place. A better writer would have either cut some of it out or done a better job of weaving it all together. That said, there were certainly parts of the novel that sang. They could have stood alone as short stories. One such part was the episode when Jack and his best friends get lost at sea as teenagers. Another was the chapter in which Lucy teaches Leah how to dig up the Loggerhead Turtle eggs and re-bury them in safer territory. Unfortunately, as I stated above, each of these vignettes could have belonged in different novels or been published as short stories. Lastly, I want to remark on one major irritant in this novel: the too-snappy dialogue. Jack's often ascerbic banter with his childhood friends when they re-encounter each other in Italy and in S. Carolina comes off contrived and movie-dialoguish. He always seems to have the perfect wiseacre come-back for every situation, and I found it rang false. A less posturing, more self-effacing and insecure Jack McCall would have seemed more realistic. No one is ever on such a witty roll every time they speak.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    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 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 sentimental and contrived it was painful. For example, "At certain times in our lives, we crackled in the sheer electricity of our desire to be wonderful in bed...We set down feasts for each other and treated our loves with tongues of fire. Our bodies were fields of wonder to us." I don't want to meet the people who think this is an example of good writing. However, Pat Conroy manages to tie all of the dozens of back-stories and personal dramas that he had been casting out together again near the two-thirds mark in the book. At that point, he thankfully backs off from trying to be an impressive writer and just settles in to being a capable storyteller. The highlights of that story for me were George Fox telling Jack about his experience in the Holocaust, the episode of Jack and his three friends stranded at sea, and Lucy McCall's childhood. I cringed whenever Jack would banter with his three indistinguishable brothers and one schizophrenic brother, and the Jordan Elliott story line could never lift all the narrative weight it was expected to shoulder. I made it through all 768 pages not because I found Jack's healing process credible, not because I found the South Carolina backdrop endearing, not because I really cared why Shyla committed suicide, but because I was impressed by how Conroy brought all of the disparate parts of the story into a working whole. I won't read another Pat Conroy novel because there is too much good literature out there, but reading Beach Music was not a waste of my time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    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 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 close custody battle with Leah's grandparents. He is summoned home to Charleston because his mother has cancer, and the rest of the almost 800 pages go forwards and backwards in time, filling in all the pieces of the story he knows and some he doesn't know. The parts seem disconnected at first, ranging from the Holocaust to Vietnam to a time at sea with a sting ray, but they all branch out from the central story in some way. One of the more active parts of the story have to do with his childhood friend Jordan, who everyone thought had died, and that helps to bridge the gaps between some of the others. Pat Conroy is hard to fully comprehend for me. I have heard he has very similar themes in all his fiction - the dysfunctional family, the mental illness, the Holocaust and Vietnam, the landscape of the low country, the abusive father (and in this book everyone has an abusive father!) - but after seeing him speak and seeing him interact with his brothers and one of his sisters yesterday at the SC Book Festival, I don't really blame him. It is clear that his family history permeates every moment, and his family is important to him. There is a sense of shocking reality to some of his writing, but then he will write these scenes of sheer unbelievability - dancing with his future wife as the ocean washes a house out to sea, a sea creature dragging the boat away, the magical rescue of the turtles - his writing is very poetic in these sections but it grated against the surrounding story to me. I wish he'd separated out his good ideas into 3 solid novels - one about the man going home after his wife's suicide, one about the boy thought dead, and one that had the more magical elements. It had the feeling of a forced epic, when the strength comes in the smaller elements - the conflicts between people, and the secrets in their histories. For me, it was a shock and then a comfort to be reading a novel about someone going home after a long time away to be with a mother who has cancer, since that is what my summer looks like it will be. Despite all the other stories swirling around it, that was the story I paid the most attention to, and cared the most about. And the turtles, I really cared about the turtles. There is so much in here that I might read it differently in a different year, but I really need to read the book he wrote about his father next - The Great Santini. You can't escape contemporary southern literature without acknowledging Pat Conroy, and you can't escape the man himself if you are around anything book related in the state of South Carolina. He's a southern superstar.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    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 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 pages is too long, but a good book at 1000 pages is a treasure. Length should not matter unless the book is clogged with irrelevant details or story lines. Beach Music isn't. As for the indistinguishable brothers, it's not their story--it's Jack's story. Yes, Conroy could have made Dallas, Dupree and Tee have more quirks, but who cares? The book is utterly rich with wonderful, memorable characters--Jack, Shyla, Lucy, Jordan, George and Ruth Fox, Max Rusoff, Capers, Leah and more. I have read hundreds of fictional accounts of Holocaust experiences, but none as powerful as George Fox's story. The way Conroy has Fox tell it to Jack in one long uninterrupted monologue is riveting. Finally, Conroy's evocation of the impact of the Vietnam War on college campuses (and Jack and his friends) at the turn of the 70's is not only hauntingly accurate with its instant radicals and infiltrating cops, it is the hub around which the entire brilliant narrative turns. All Conroy's books are masterpieces. Beach Music deserves pride of place among them. In my opinion, it and South of Broad are his finest achievements.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    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 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 the Holocaust and Vietnam with equal rawness. There were times when I had to put it down, the descriptions so harsh and real. But it was so necessary to go there. This should be required reading for all high schoolers. This novel will stick with me for a long time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    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 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 living in voluntary exile in Rome, after his wife Shyla’s suicide some years before. Shyla’s death resulted in a bitter custody battle over Leah between Jack and Shyla’s parents. Now, Jack hopes to raise his daughter as an Italian, with no knowledge of his native South or of the family that threatened to tear them apart. However, Jack’s fragile peace is not to last. Through a series of preposterous circumstances (a private eye trails Jack and Leah through much of the novel’s first few chapters), Jack is forced to confront his past and, eventually, return to his home state of South Carolina. This is where the story began to lose me. Just when things should have been getting good, the narrative fell apart. Instead of a single inciting incident, we get three: the private eye, it seems, was hired by Shyla’s sister, Martha, who wants Jack to return home and reunite with Shyla’s father, who may or may not have previously-unrevealed insights into Shyla’s suicide. At the same time, Jack’s old friend, Mike Hess (now a wildly-successful film producer), pops up out of nowhere with Jack’s former girlfriend, Ledare, in tow. Mike, you see, also wants Jack to return home, though his motivations are somewhat different. Mike hopes that Jack will sign on to a new project of his, a movie about their South Carolina childhoods, and (at the same time) provide information about a mutual friend, Jordan, who died (or, some say, disappeared) after a Vietnam War protest gone bad. As if that weren’t enough, Jack also receives a phone call from his brother, Dupree, announcing that their mother has leukemia and Jack is wanted at home. It’s a lot to keep track of, and Beach Music lacks the narrative structure necessary to make these disparate elements hang together. My main complaint regarding this book was that Pat Conroy seemed hell-bent on packing as many increasingly-strange tangents into its pages as possible, while giving no thought whatsoever to what these episodes had in common or what kind of story they were supposed to tell. Beach Music does not lack for memorable scenes. Still vivid in my mind’s eye (a month or more later) is an astonishing episode in which a teenage Jack and his friends Jordan and Capers Middleton are stranded at sea for fifteen days after a manta ray destroys their motorboat. These scenes had me glued to the pages, in suspense, and would have made a terrific short story. But they have no relation whatsoever to the overall arc of the novel. Also excellent are a scene in which Jordan (at twelve, the abused, terrified child of a Marine Corps Colonel) achieves a moment of quiet courage in a psychiatrist’s office and the truly heroic struggle of Jack’s mother, Lucy McCall and her brother, Jude, to escape the brutal poverty of their childhood. Yet, as I turned the book’s final pages, I was left wondering what exactly happened. I’m still not sure what the overall point of the novel was or how these scenes related to each other. Compounding my dislike for the book are the main characters themselves. I’m all about flawed characters, but not one of the people populating Conroy’s novel came across as likable or even very sympathetic. In particular, Jack McCall himself came across as a big, overgrown child. A scene in which he launches into a screaming tantrum at his dying mother almost made me throw the book down in disgust and I failed to share his happiness at his eventual coming-to-terms with his past. This occurs during a ludicrous mock trial at the end of the book. Staged by Jack’s friend Mike, for a bizarre home-movie, the main characters come together on stage to tell their version of the events that eventually drove them apart. In the book, it’s every bit as corny and overwrought as it sounds. While reading this climax (supposedly a moment of grief and reconciliation for all concerned), I was left rolling my eyes, wondering why one character, in particular, would chose to incriminate himself during a trial with no legal baring, whatsoever. Beach Music might be worth reading if what you’re after is sheer entertainment or a way to kill time, but don’t commit to its eight hundred-plus pages expecting to bond with its large cast of characters or a satisfying resolution at the end. After such greats as The Lords of Discipline, Beach Music is a disappointment from Conroy, from whom I’ve come to expect much more. Certainly, it’s not a book I’ll be recommending or returning to anytime soon.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ngaire

    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 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 as my all time favorite book. It was just so beautiful and dramatic and nostalgic. I guess there are probably people out there who hate Pat Conroy, but I ain't one of them.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Krystin Ciesco

    Aside from the book being epically long, Pat Conroy is a great story teller. However I was disappointed with the climax of the book and a bit let down leading me to struggle to finish. But I did and thought that the biggest strength were the story elements that made me laugh, weep, get angry, etc. A good read if you are willing to commit to the length of the book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Les

    My Original Notes (1996): The BEST! 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 My Original Notes (1996): The BEST! 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 Thoughts: As I grow older, my list of all-time favorite books grows by leaps and bounds. I have read dozens and dozens of 5-star books and would be hard-pressed to name my lifetime Top Ten. However, if it came down to it, Beach Music would most definitely be on that lifetime list. It is one of the first examples of lyrical writing I ever encountered and I can still picture scene after scene twenty years later. This is one of those books that I have always wanted to re-read, but have been afraid to, worrying that it may not live up to my expectations the second time around. I downloaded the audio edition, thinking I'd try going that route for a second reading, but now that Conroy has passed away, I think I'd like to honor his memory, his talent, and his craft and give the book another reading. I have only read three of Conroy's novels: Beach Music, The Great Santini and South of Broad. I've watched The Prince of Tides, but have never read the novel. One book I'd really want to read is My Reading Life, which was published in 2010.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    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 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 book, by FAR, is the depiction of Jon-Hardin holding all of his brothers hostage at the top of the Silas Pearlman Bridge (I think that's the right bridge...). I don't want to ruin it for you, but if you ever read it, you can know that that is my favorite part :)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    I love Pat Conroy's writing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sissy

    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 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.Readers say they tire of Conroy's "dysfunctional family" themes. Well, who hasn't got a dysfunctional family? It would be utterly boring to read about countless perfect, tidy unscathed families anyway! 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! Favorite quotes: The South’s got a lot wrong with it. But it’s permanent press and it doesn’t wash out. Though I could write about the imperishable charms of Rome forever, I could not quiet that pearly ache in my heart that I diagnosed as the cry of home “He could trim a gnat’s pubic hair at fifty feet” said Dallas. “That boy can handle a gun.”…lol

  24. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    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 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 characters, some of whom are larger than life and just as compelling as Jack. We meet Jack's family, his deceased wife's parents - who Jack has a difficult relationship with - and friends with troubled pasts who reappear in Jack's life unexpectedly. It's long, at 800 pages, but the story is so engrossing that the length shouldn't put you off. It flew by for me and I found myself wishing there were more to read. The book, in my view, is somewhat of a love letter to South Carolina, and the South in general, as are many of Pat Conroy's books. He knows his characters and his settings intimately and treats them with love and respect. For this reason, and many others, Pat Conroy has long been one of my favorite authors.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    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...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debby Hallett

    It took a long time to finish this book. It’s long. And vast. Very moving saga

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ella Burakowski

    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 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 exception. Beach Music is essentially about Jack McCall; a single dad trying to raise his little girl Leah in Rome after his wife Shyla commits suicide. He wants to get far away from the dysfunction of the families and demons he leaves behind in South Carolina. But your roots are your roots, and circumstance brings Jack back home like a slingshot to the epicenter of drama. He is catapulted in to the lives of his 4 brothers, the most interesting of which is John Hardin his paranoid schizophrenic sibling, his mother who is battling cancer, his holocaust survivor in-laws who tried to take Leah in a dirty custody battle and old school friends who are not without major drama which peaked during the time of the Vietnam war. Beach Music had me laughing, thinking and sobbing. It's one of those books you need time to savor. I hate saying goodbye to these people who have become part of my life, albeit for a short time. So sorry to see it end.

  28. 5 out of 5

    megan

    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 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 memories there for him and his family is bona fide nutso. Throw in the fact that his now dead wife's parents are Holocaust survivors, his best friend from grade school who's now a world-famous hollywood type and just kind of pops up all over the book at random (I guess you assume he's rich enough to do that) wants to make a movie about their young life in South Carolina, another not-so-best friend is running for the S. Carolina Senate and a bunch of crazy brothers and alcoholic fathers--well, I think you have yourself a novel that I'll read. Oh yeah, I can't forget the act of terrorism at the airport, too. Oh jeeze. Wow that was a long winded review that went nowhere. Okay I'm done.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leona

    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: Schizophrenia Sucide Holocaust Racism Vietnam Riots Child Abuse Wife Abuse Infidelity Cancer Appalachian tragedies Rescue of Sea Turtles Incarceration...and I am only half through. What a disaster. Pat Conroy squeezed so m 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: Schizophrenia Sucide Holocaust Racism Vietnam Riots Child Abuse Wife Abuse Infidelity Cancer Appalachian tragedies Rescue of Sea Turtles Incarceration...and I am only half through. What a disaster. Pat Conroy squeezed so much in, he absolutely lost his way. But I could forgive that, except for the feeling that this was done simply for the hopes of getting movie rights. I can't forgive this exploitation of those that suffered so horrifically during the Holocaust. To me that is just irresponsible writing. Both the writer and editor should have their pens taken away.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    Just absolutely loved this novel! It was a bit long but the characters are both warm and endearing. Pat Conroy is a fabulous author.

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