My freshly shined shoes moved across the Oriental carpets as I looked for a uniformed guard to halt my progress towards the inner sanctum of the club, but the few men I passed neither noticed or spoke to me as I moved towards the murmurous conversations of the lunchtime crowd. Outside the Cooper River was lined with white sails limp in the breathless air like butterflies ..............."
I have read the Prince of Tides and Beach Music, both great and I could not wait to start Mr. Conroy's latest.
This is a masterpiece in my humble opinion and I wish I could give South of Broad more than five stars, so discerning it would be.
South is a novel that gets under your skin allowing you to remember your growing up days, partying non-stop and having long hang-outs and partaking in those things which young people generally go through before they find their place in the world and know what careers they want to pursue. Actually what they want from life period. The characters in South are diverse and have their own stories to tell.
We meet Sheba and Trevor Poe who are twins from a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother and a father you don't really want to know about. These beautiful twins are taken in by the compassionate King family.......the main characters of this book.
Molly Huger the socialite and Chadworth Rutledge have a love-hate relationship, and are from upscale families, but this does not stop them from being part of the circle of friends.
Niles and Starla Whitehead were poor children from the mountains who made their world amongst these folk.
Ike and Betty a black couple who appear as no nonsense people. They are tough and adored by all, as they fit right into these friendships which endure from their youth until two decades later. But those are not all.
Leo King, the main character is nicknamed Toad and narrates the story. Leo is very much loved by his father and consistently judged by his mother. Leo wonderfully narrates the story of his past troubled life which became unhinged as he pondered and agonised over the suicide of his brother Steve, whom he loved so much. It hurt him so and totally broke his heart as he became totally unbalanced and suffered mentally, forcing him into rehabilitation. As the years go by Leo still tries to come to terms with Steve's choice of self-destruction, to opt out of life just like that...it still hurt.
There are many joyful blessings as well as comforting and defying challenges. Mr. Conroy carries us into the past sweeps us into the present and the future. The Drama unfolds in the middle of the book where friendships are tested as one of the friends pleads for a dangerous and timely favour from all of them. What will they do??
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 24/02/10)