When Book-of-the-Month Club offered Pat Conroy's latest book, South of Broad, I eagerly ordered it. Conroy has written some great books: Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, Prince of Tides, The Water Is Wide, but he has not had any new books for several years.
It didn't take too many pages to figure out that this book isn't the end of Pat Conroy's dry spell. He is just repeating the same books he has been writing, except now the overbearing father with a fanatical allegiance to an authoritarian organization, the Citadel, is an overbearing mother with a fanatical devotion to the Roman Catholic church. The good guy basketball coach is now the good guy football coach. The token black is back; the narrator is still the wise-cracking hero who goes through harrowing adventures before everything turns out all right in the end.
Conroy has always had a penchant for melodramatic plotting, but this one is so over-the-top that it is not remotely believable. Conroy never met a superlative he didn't like. Everything and everyone is the best, the most beautiful, the smartest, the most talented, the worst criminal in the history of mankind. Average people and ordinary events don't exist in Pat Conroy's world.
Conroy still knows how to turn a good phrase. But his writing talent is wasted in this book. Even if you're a Conroy fan, particularly if you're a Conroy fan, don't bother to see how the mighty have fallen by wasting your time on this book. I gave it two stars out of five.