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Beach Music (Anglais) Poche – 1 juin 1996


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In 1980, a year after my wife leapt to her death from the Silas Pearlman Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina, I moved to Italy to begin life anew, taking our small daughter with me.  Our sweet Leah was not quite two when my wife, Shyla, stopped her car on the highest point of the bridge and looked over, for the last time, the city she loved so well.  She had put on the emergency brake and opened the door of our car, then lifted herself up to the rail of the bridge with the delicacy and enigmatic grace that was always Shyla's catlike gift.  She was also quick-witted and funny, but she carried within her a dark side that she hid with bright allusions and an irony as finely wrought as lace.  She had so mastered the strategies of camouflage that her own history had seemed a series of well-placed mirrors that kept her hidden from herself.

        It was nearly sunset and a tape of the Drifters' Greatest Hits poured out of the car's stereo.  She had recently had our car serviced and the gasoline tank was full.  She had paid all the bills and set up an appointment with Dr. Joseph for my teeth to be cleaned.  Even in her final moments, her instincts tended toward the orderly and the functional.  She had always prided herself in keeping her madness invisible and at bay; and when she could no longer fend off the voices that grew inside her, their evil set to chaos in a minor key, her breakdown enfolded upon her, like a tarpaulin pulled across that part of her brain where once there had been light.  Having served her time in mental hospitals, exhausted the wide range of pharmaceuticals, and submitted herself to the priestly rites of therapists of every theoretic persuasion, she was defenseless when the black music of her subconscious sounded its elegy for her time on earth.

        On the rail, all eyewitnesses agreed, Shyla hesitated and looked out toward the sea and shipping lanes that cut past Fort Sumter, trying to compose herself for the last action of her life.  Her beauty had always been a disquieting thing about her and as the wind from the sea caught her black hair, lifting it like streamers behind her, no one could understand why anyone so lovely would want to take her own life.  But Shyla was tired of feeling ill-made and transitory and she wanted to set the flags of all her tomorrows at half-mast. Three days earlier, she had disappeared from our house in Ansonborough and only later did I discover that she had checked in to the Mills-Hyatt House to put her affairs in order.  After making appointments, writing schedules, letters, and notes that would allow our household to continue in its predictable harmony, she marked the mirror in her hotel room with an annulling X in bright red lipstick, paid her bill with cash, flirted with the doorman, and gave a large tip to the boy who brought her the car.  The staff at the hotel remarked on her cheerfulness and composure during her stay.

        As Shyla steadied herself on the rail of the bridge a man approached her from behind, a man coming up from Florida, besotted with citrus and Disney World, and said in a low voice so as not to frighten the comely stranger on the bridge, "Are you okay, honey?"

        She pirouetted slowly and faced him.  Then with tears streaming down her face, she stepped back, and with that step, changed the lives of her family forever. Her death surprised no one who loved her, yet none of us got over it completely.  Shyla was that rarest of suicides: no one held her responsible for the act itself; she was forgiven as instantly as she was missed and afterward she was deeply mourned.  

        For three days I joined the grim-faced crew of volunteers who searched for Shyla's remains.  Ceaselessly, we dragged the length and breadth of the harbor, enacting a grotesque form of braille as hoods felt their way along the mudflats and the pilings of the old bridge that connected Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island.  Two boys  were crabbing when they noticed her body moving toward them beside the marsh grass.

        After her funeral, a sadness took over me that seemed permanent, and I lost myself in the details and technicalities connected to death in the South. Great sorrow still needs to be fed and I dealt with my disconsolate emptiness by feeding everyone who gathered around me to offer their support.  I felt as though I were providing sustenance for the entire army in the field who had come together to ease the malignant ache I felt every time Shyla's name was mentioned.  The word Shyla itself became a land mine.  That sweet-sounding word was merciless and I could not bear to hear it.  

        So I lost myself in the oils and condiments of my well-stocked kitchen.  I fatted up my friends and family, attempted complicated recipes I had always put off making, and even tried my hand at Asian cuisine for the first time.  With six gas burners ablaze, I turned out velvety soups and rib-sticking stews.  I alternated between cooking and weeping and I prayed for the repose of the soul of my sad, hurt wife.  I suffered, I grieved, I broke down, and I cooked fabulous meals for those who came to comfort me.

        It was only a short time after we buried Shyla that her parents sued me for custody of my child, Leah, and their lawsuit brought me running back into the real world.  I spent a dispiriting year in court trying to prove my fitness as a father.  It was a time when I met a series of reptilian lawyers so unscrupulous that I would not have used their marrow to feed wild dogs or their wiry flesh to bait a crab pot.  Shyla's mother and father had gone crazy with grief and I learned much about the power of scapegoating by watching their quiet hatred of me as they grimaced though the testimony regarding my sanity, my finances, my reputation in the community, and my sexual life with their eldest child.  

        Though I have a whole range of faults that piqued the curiosity of the court, few who have ever seen me with my daughter have any doubts about my feelings for her.  I get weak at the knees at the very sight of her.  She is my certification, my boarding pass into the family of man, and whatever faith in the future I still retain.  

        But it was not my overriding love of Leah that won the day in court.  Before she took her final drive, Shyla had mailed me a letter that was part love letter and part apology for what she had done.  When my lawyer had me read that letter aloud to the court, it became clear to Shyla's parents and everyone present that laying her death at my feet was, at best, a miscarriage of justice.  Her letter was an act of extraordinary generosity written in the blackest hours of her life.  She blew it like a kiss toward me as a final gesture of a rare, exquisite sensibility.  Her letter saved Leah for me.  But the ferocity of that court battle left me exhausted, bitter, and raw around the edges.  It felt as though Shyla had died twice.  

        I answered my wife's leap from the bridge and the fierceness of that legal battle with a time of disorientation and sadness; and then with Italy.  Toward Europe, I looked for respite and hermitage, and the imminence of my secret flight from South Carolina again restored a fight spirit within me.  I had made a good living as a food and travel writer and running away had always been one of the things I did best.  

        The flight to Europe was my attempt to place the memory of both Shyla and South Carolina permanently in the past.  I hoped I would save my life and Leah's from the suffocation I was beginning to feel in the place where Shyla and I had come of age together.  For me, the South was carry-on baggage I could not shed no matter how many borders I crossed, but my daughter was still a child and I wanted her to grow into young womanhood as a European, blissfully unaware of that soft ruinous South that had killed her mother in one of its prettiest rivers.  My many duties as a father I took with great seriousness, but there was no law that I was aware of that insisted I raise Leah as a Southerner.  Certainly, the South had been a mixed blessing for me and I carried some grievous wounds into exile with me.  All the way across the Atlantic Leah slept in my lap and when she awoke, I began her transformation by teaching her to count in Italian.  And so in Rome we settled and began the long process of refusing to be Southern, even though my mother started a letter-writing campaign to coax me back home.  Her letters arrived every Friday: "A Southerner in Rome? A low country boy in Italy? Ridiculous.  You've always been restless, Jack, never knew how to be comfortable with your own kind.  But mark my words.  You'll be back soon.  The South's got a lot wrong with it.  But it's permanent press and it doesn't wash out."

        Though my mother was onto something real, I stuck by my guns.  I would tell American tourists who questioned me about my accent that I no longer checked the scores of the Atlanta Braves in the Herald T...

Revue de presse

“Reading PAT CONROY is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.”
Houston Chronicle

“Astonishing . . . stunning . . . the range of passions and subjects that brings life to every page is almost endless.”
The Washington Post Book World

“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

“Magnificent...beach music is clearly CONROY’S best.”
San Francisco Chronicle


From the Trade Paperback edition.


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Détails sur le produit

  • Poche: 816 pages
  • Editeur : Bantam; Édition : Reprint (1 juin 1996)
  • Collection : Roman
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0553574574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553574579
  • Dimensions du produit: 10,8 x 3,6 x 18,4 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 151.297 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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3 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Evelyn Stevens le 6 février 2002
Format: Broché
J'ai beaucoup aimée ce livre par mon auteur favori.
Peut-être encore plus touchant et typique que Prince of Tides. J'attend avec impatience son nouveau livre.
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Amazon.com: 657 commentaires
196 internautes sur 208 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
MUSIC TO MY EARS 22 octobre 2001
Par TheReader23 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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.
81 internautes sur 91 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The most difficult of Conroy's novels 9 mars 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Pat Conroy is my favorite author--I just wish he produced a new book every three months like John Grishom. There is absolutely nobody else who has the power of "description" and "Imagery" that he has.
I love Conroy's writing because it is always so contradictory. He makes you love and hate his characters at the same time. I started out by being completely annoyed with John Hardin in this novel, and then he ended up being my favorite character--he was so funny and outrageous. I felt the same about his mother--loved and hated her at the time time. I remember this was also true of his characters when I read "Prince of Tides." He has such an ability to play with the reader's emotions.
Beach Music was harder than his other novels because of so many subplots & characters, but instead of wishing it hadn't been so long and gone into so much, I found myself wishing it was longer, and he had developed the characters & subplots even more.
There is always a feeling of "letdown" when you finish one of Pat Conroy's novels because you don't want it to end. Nobody writes about "dysfunction" with his sense of humor.
76 internautes sur 87 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
yummy & luscious 15 avril 2003
Par Peggy Vincent - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
I'm usually a reviewer who argues for strong editing, saying books are too long and in need of brutal slashing and burning.
But this book of Pat Conroy's doesn't fall in that category; I loved and cherished every word of it. It's rich, lush, full of atmospheric detail.
Pat Conroy at his best, and it makes me want to go to Italy and the South.
38 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Wonderful! 25 octobre 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
This has become one of my favorite books of all time. Conroy's imagery and use of detail to enhance his storyline is exemplary. He expresses ideas and emotions very well. My favorite quote from the book expressess this idea. "I could feel the tears within me, undiscovered and untouched in their inland sea. Those tears haad been with me always." His explanation why couldn't cry for his wife's death was touching. I have also read Prince of Tides by Conroy, and though the plot have many similarities, I like Beach Music better of the two because it touches on so many more people and their stories. It bothered me aa little at first that there were so many similarites in plot and in characters, but then I became more intrigued because I felt as if I was reading about Conroy's own life, that he had drawn from his personal experiences. Whether this is true or not I don't know. The characters are extremely well developed, each with their own destictive personality, which is amazing considering the number of characters involved. I really liked the plot of the book bacause he delt with so many issues and tied them together so well. He reaches out and pulls amazing stories from his characters, and does it without seeming fake.
I wouldn't say this book is for everyone. I wouldn't recommend Beach Musi to people who like extremely fast paced books and don't have the patience for character development. I also would not recommend it to people who would have a hard time dealing with the issues he brings up like suicide, rape, mental instability and the Holocaust. However, I think Conroy's book has great value.
18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Music To My Ears 20 mars 2002
Par K. Thompson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Pat Conroy is, more or less, the best modern American writer. Word truly seem to flow from his "pen"; his characters are captivating and well-developed; his descriptions, whether he's describing a person, place or thing, are unbelievable; and his plots are such dramas, filled with scenes that will make you laugh, make you shrink back in horror, and make you cry.
Beach Music is probably the best, and longest, of Conroy's books. The melodrama begins when Jack McCall, an Southerner who moved to Italy to raise his young daughter after his wife committed suicide, is called back to his home town--Waterford, SC--because his mother is dying. The book describes Jack and his four younger brothers (including wonderfully written scenes with his youngest, and craziest brother John Hardin--who happens to be my favorite character) as they struggle with their family's past, their mother's dying, and the pitiful-excuse-of-a-human-being that is their father.
Secondly, this book describes Jack's attempt to understand why his wife killed herself, and his attempt to reconcile with her family. This part of the book, Jack's in-laws' stories, are probably the hardest emotionally to read. Both of his in-laws were survivors of concentration camps, and their stories are truly heart-wrenching.
Thirdly, this book tells the tale of Jack reuniting with his best guy and girl friends from his teenage years. This part tells how Jack fell in love, how he met his best friend, and what happened to each of their lives. For whatever reason, this section of the book reminded me of the Big Chill (probably because of the reuniting of old friends), but I found this part very enjoyable.
Overall, this book is about a man having to look back--not necessarily reminisce, but to re-examine--on his past to try to solve problems he has with himself, his family, and with raising his daughter without including any family help. This book is very good, very powerful, and, personally, is a book I would take if I were stranded on a desert island.
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