Confession... When Lisa suggested this I didn't look into it but assumed it would be chick lit because of the title and was like WTF, why would SHE suggest chick lit, but whatever it's summer, I'm game. Then I glanced at the description after it was picked and I was like oooh, interesting, chick lit is about WWII and Vietnam, interesting. Then I got to the library and was like, HOLY CRAP, it's HUGE, it's probably a horrible book. Then I started reading and I LOVED IT! So, thank you Lisa and thank you to your friend because I really enjoyed this and may look into more books by him to see if they interest me. Just another edition of, I like to judge books by their cover and their titles. ;P
Beach Music tells of Jack McCall, an American who moves to Rome to escape the trauma and painful memory of his young wife's suicide leap off a bridge in South Carolina. The story takes place in South Carolina and Rome, then reaches back in time to the Vietnam War era and the horrors of the Holocaust.
It is a novel that concerns itself with the loss of innocence. It is about the acquisition of self-knowledge and about learning to accept where we come from. It is about the eternal quest for forgiveness—seeking it in others, finding it in ourselves—so that we can begin to live again. Ultimately, it is about reclaiming the past in order to prepare a background on the canvas of the future from which hope can finally flourish.
Remembrance. Reconciliation. Redemption.
With resonant prose and unmatched insight, Conroy throws open all of the doors and windows on the human condition, revealing to us with crystal clarity the perils of the war without as well as the war within.
1. Did you like the parts set in Rome or the parts set in South Carolina better? Have you been to either place? How do they compare?
2. Jack finds the South both alluring and repellent–to him it is simultaneously a place of great beauty and great danger. After hearing his story and those of his friends and relatives, do you agree with him? And do you think that Jack’s view of the South is informed by Pat Conroy’s own views?
3. For Jack, food is a comfort–almost a religion. What do the other characters hold dear, and what does it say about them?
4. If you’re familiar with Pat Conroy’s other novels, what parallels can you draw between the father-son relationships in his previous stories and Jack’s and Jordan’s relationships with their fathers?
5. Jack has so many brothers that, with the exception of John Hardin, they tend to blend together. Why do you think he has so many brothers? What’s their role in the novel?
6. When Capers tries to catch the gigantic manta ray on his fishing trip with Jack, Jordan, and Mike, he almost kills all of them. What’s the significance of his failure? Does it make him a tragic figure?
7. Betsy hates Jack. She says, “I’m trying to think where I met a bigger asshole.” What’s unlikable about Jack, and where do we see it besides in his treatment of Betsy? Do you think Jack’s flaws make him an unreliable narrator?
8. The two holiest men in the novel—Father Jude and Jordan–have both killed people. What does this say about the author’s vision of right and wrong? Can murder be justified? Can it be atoned for outside of a prison cell?
9. At the end of the novel, we find out that the Vietnam War was the event that ended up splicing Jack’s group of friends. Were the characters responsible for their actions, or were events beyond their control?
10. Did Jack make the right choice by forgiving Capers?
11. What are your thoughts on the book?
Whew! That's a lot of questions, but it was a looooong book. Please feel free to add any others you may have! Thanks for reading and discussing. Next month we will be reading Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple!