Beach Music

by Pat Conroy

Hardcover, 1995

Call number




Doubleday (1995), Edition: 1st, 628 pages


Fiction. Literature. HTML: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.   Praise for Beach Music �Astonishing . . . stunning . . . The range of passions and subjects that bring life to every page is almost endless.��The Washington Post Book World �Magnificent . . . clearly Conroy�s best.��San Francisco Chronicle �Blockbuster writing at its best.��Los Angeles Times Book Review �Pat Conroy�s writing contains a virtue now rare in most contemporary fiction: passion.��The Denver Post �A powerful, heartfelt tale.��Houston Chronicle.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MSFJones
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member brendajanefrank
Conroy's writing is so effective that I started feeling suicidal. Much of this story is tragic. I had to take a break when only 1/3 finished because it was beginning to impair my well-being. I hope to get back to it after finishing some Evanovich fluff to lift my spirits.
LibraryThing member ugagirl
I love how this book weaves in and out of the South and Italy. I recommend listening to the book on tape of it. It is long, but the reader was excellent. Not sure of his name, but he sounded a lot like Kevin Spacey.
LibraryThing member mattrutherford
Tedious. I couldn't finish it.
LibraryThing member GarySeverance
Pat Conroy's novel is a wide ranging depiction of life in Charleston, South Carolina and to a lesser extent Rome, Italy. It is a multi-generational and multi-family story with interesting, fully developed main characters. As with his prior novels and a later one, South of Broad, Conroy focuses on
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the psychology of the narrator and his closest friends.

Jack McCall is a person who has always been at the border of activity of his circle of friends. It is as if he just missed the center of the action but still was affected intensely by relationships with the boys and girls and later men and women of Charleston. With Jack, it is a matter of communication. He is very insightful privately but inhibited in outward expression. This makes him an excellent observer and mostly reliable witness to social events and character motives.

Two major historical themes are explored: antiwar activities of college students in the U.S. in the 1960s as the Vietnam war dragged on, and the history of Jewish life before, during, and after World War II. The two themes determine to a large extent the psychological development of the characters and the courses of their interactions. The focus is on four male characters (including Jack) with different levels of commitment to past and present South Carolina coastal life.

As in previous and subsequent work, Conroy writes in a lyrical poetic style capturing the enduring landscape of Charleston and Rome as backgrounds for his story. Each descriptive sentence, it seems, is a sensual portrait of environments the author clearly adores.

If you have read South of Broad, you may notice parallels with Beach Music in theme, story, and characters even though the novels are distinct. I read the more recent novel first and would suggest reading them in chronological order. South of Broad has more dramatic action and is not dominated by the legacy of the Vietnam war and history of Jewish survival preceding, during, and after WWII. The center of identification though in both novels is Charleston, SC and the unique culture of the residents.

I recommend Beach Music with the reservation that the characters are somewhat inaccessible to readers living outside of coastal South Carolina. The low country is a partially closed community of people with a shared past and culture. The characters are interesting and I cared about them, but did not completely identify with their motives. Because of that lack on my part, the actions and relationships of the characters did not quite ring true. This observation was not my experience with South of Broad. Even though I have lived part time in the low country for five years, I am an outsider and probably always will be.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I kept thinking I had already read this - and I had. Mr. Conroy has a way of infusing sadness into his books. Overall not a favorite author.
LibraryThing member frankwalker
Wonderful story about a father and daughter plus assorted relatives set in the deep south.
LibraryThing member MrsHillReads
I had a stack of books to read and put this off until last because I didn't think I would like it; instead, it was my favorite! Very interesting family relationships.
LibraryThing member m_loveman
Beach Music is one of my top ten favorite books of all time. I love Pat Conroy's descriptions and how all of the story lines work together.
LibraryThing member wispywillow
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Frank Muller, and the combination of his skillful reading and the poetic prose of Pat Conroy made listening to this book an emotional experience. I lost count of how many times this book made me laugh, cry, and reflect on my own life.

The story is beautiful
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and poignant and heart-breaking as it weaves between Rome, Italy and Waterford, South Carolina. There are several stories within the story, each one emotional and some even terrifying to comprehend.
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LibraryThing member Nancylouu
Loved this book - hope to find the time to reread it some day.
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
As usual, Pat Conroy displays a rabidly dysfunctional family, based in Waterford, South Carolina. Jack McCall born to a drunken father and a weird mother, who had a horrid childhood, has four brothers,one of whom is crazy at times. Conroy weaves a tale about these people and those who come in touch
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with them, which manages to say much about the Vietnam divisions in the US, and the Holocaust horror--based on fact or imagination? The book is 800 pages and frankly I think is too long, and a lot of the hagiographical stuff about Leah, Jack's daughter, could have been spared the reader. There are episodes whch are of high interest, but there is an excess of foul language at times and it is hard to believe the events as described could have happened. I know they did not but even in fiction one should be able to believe the events could have happened.
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LibraryThing member aklnbrg
Beach Music is an excellent book. It includes vivid descriptions of a wide variety of settings including appalling ones like the brutal Appalachia out back and a horrific Holocaust concentration camp as well as pleasant ones like the urban beauty of Rome and the natural beauty of costal areas of
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the American south. Truth be told, this book has so much in it, that in my mind I can't imagine that it was all part of the same book. He could have made at least five books out ot it.

I read it about four years ago and many of these diverse elements linger in my memory. It takes brilliant writing to bring so much together and keep it together within the framework of a coherent story.
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LibraryThing member readingrat
For the first third of this book it felt like it could be a (rather lame) sequel to Prince of Tides - different characters, same themes. Eventually though the author began to allow the story to take its own shape and that's when it really started to shine.
LibraryThing member nevacampbell
This bok is like listening to an old favorite record. It is a song of home and places I want to see. Characters that are crazy, loved and hated like my own family.
LibraryThing member fishhook7
Not my favorite of his but very interesting from an auto-biographical sort of place.
LibraryThing member Jen42
Wonderful, sad, intricate story regarding a group of friends and their lives in the south in the 60s and beyond. This is another book that ranks on my list of favorite books of all time, and it is far and away my favorite of all of Pat Conroy's books.
LibraryThing member debavp
There's a scene from my most favorite movie, The Big Chill, where William Hurt says...'no one had a more cushier birth than we...'. I found myself relating that scene repeatedly throughout this book.

While I was born a generation and a half after the characters, I can certainly remember and even
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relate to some events that transpire. As a born Southerner I can relate both to the author's style of writing as well as the environment he is trying to depict, at times successful and at times not quite so. I have read comments about Conroy's writing being not believable, that 'people don't talk like that'. A fraction of that may be true. Most New Yorkers don't talk like Jack McCall, neither do most South Carolinians. However, the really great Southern storytellers do. Sure at times I wish he'd have dropped every third adjective for the sake of speeding things along, but then I remembered that this was his story to tell.

Beach Music is not a beach read. It is a comprehensive look at a generation that had to deal with so many conflicts of their own present, their parents' past, and their childrens' futures. As I have witnessed in my own extended family, for characters in this story there was a bond between friends that was unlike any generation before or since. I've always been a bit envious of them for that. This is a story about imperfect people and imperfect families, the consequences of revealing too little and revealing too much, of love lost and love found, and of great friendships that never end.
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LibraryThing member plm1250
My least favorite of Conroy's book. Again the fractured extended southern family the strong, love-hate mother-sons relationship as the eldest son returns from self exile in Rome where he is raising his young daughter alone as his mother, a childhood friends commited suicide before his departure
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from his deep Southtown, leaving him estranged from his family(4 brothers) he returns to be at the bedside of his terminal ill mother. Once again the plot focuses on family rerelationship, dysfunctionalilty as the family relives their troubled youth, what drove his wife to suicide and the secret behind his close friend, the son of an Army general, joining the priesthood to escape/atone for a violent crime he committed at that same growing up time at the height of the Viet Nam wa
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LibraryThing member ifionlyhada
This book has amazing back stories that are so interresting. It feels like you are reading a series of books. But the love of the Brothers, the Friends and the families, really make this a wonderful story.
LibraryThing member goldzz13
I read this book so long ago, but I do remember loving it and wanting more.
LibraryThing member WeeziesBooks
“Beach Music” by Pat Conroy was a delightful story. The characters were strong and well developed. I both strongly disliked or identified with and cared for different individuals in the story. Jack McCall and his childhood school friends compose the main characters in “Beach Music.” There
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was an important smaller story within about the Viet Nam war and the effect that it had upon one group of friends and family. Conroy’s descriptions of and loyalty to the South are demonstrated in all his books but seemed to be more personal in this one. The reexamining and reconnecting with ones past and finding a comfortable relationship with it was the major theme. Conroy touched on so many important concepts and issues, including mental health illnesses, cancer, war, family struggles and love and loyalty between friends.

I really liked reading Conroy’s “South of Broad” and getting to know his style of writing. “Beach Music” was also a good read and kept me engaged throughout. I almost enjoyed this story of South Carolina and the South as much.
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LibraryThing member idiotgirl
Audiobook. Ambitious novel. I had recently read My Revolution. This is also about coming to grips with 60s and Vietnam as one approaches getting older. This one also throws in the Red Brigade and the Holocaust. Nothing if not nervy. This books is definitely more interested in the male characters.
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The females are male fantasies. But this was an interesting read. Finished on a road trip.
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LibraryThing member christinejoseph
quirky set of friends in Southern town
Jack McCall, widower daughter living in Rome — searches his haunting past
alcoholism, depression, etc.
LibraryThing member tls1215
This was my least favorite of Pat Conroys's books. Although I will say that one of my favorite descriptions in any book I've read is on page 48; talking about his relationship with his mother. Other than that, not really worth the read


Audie Award (Winner — 1996)




9900132149 / 9789900132141
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