Friday, May 17, 2019

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy

I understood for the first time why the punishment for Lot's wife was so severe. There were times when it was unforgivable to look back (88%)

This is a dark and edgy book that explores the same themes of innate violence and tribal belonging as LORD OF THE FLIES. Set in a Southern military college, THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE is about a young Irish Catholic boy named William McLean. Since he's the most liberal and cynical boy in the academy, he's given the task of protecting the new black recruit who's entering the school as a result of desegregation. Their school, Carolina Military Institute, is well known for its "plebe" system and brutal hazing methods of incoming freshmen, culminating in something called "Hell Night." Will needs to make sure that Tom Pearce isn't run out of the school by racists who use that hazing to exert sadistic and bigoted revenge.

Unfortunately, hazing and Hell Night aren't the worst thing about the school. There's whispered rumors of a secret society called "The 10," filled with influential and powerful boys, who will stop at nothing to purge the school of anything that they deem damaging to the Carolina Military Institute's honor code. And if Will McLean does his job and protects Tom, he might come under fire, too.

This was so good, you guys. Even though it's 500+ pages, I finished it in just two days. It's brutal and twisted and violent and awful, and has all kinds of dark themes, but it says powerful things about honor and friendship and pride and loyalty and what it means to really do the right thing. I'm a huge sucker for secret society and boarding school stories, and when you throw revenge, friendship, and plotting into the mix, I'm sold. This book didn't fail to deliver, either. The hazing scenes are so disturbing and the stakes in this book are so, so high. There's a lot of grief and suffering.

THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE is why I feel the need to read old books that nobody else has heard of. This is an excellent story that I would have loved to have read in college, and I think it's got a story in it that a lot of my friends would be interested in reading. It says a lot of bad words (the F-word, the N-word), and has a lot of tough themes running the gamut from torture and assault (sexual and physical) to teen pregnancy and suicide, but it's such a powerful read that I feel like it's worth the struggle. The only reason it doesn't get a full five stars from me is because the writing can be a bit clunky and hard to get into, but man, the story is totally worth that bumpy, dumpy ride.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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