In Defense of Audio Books: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Posted August 6, 2015 by RobbieLea in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

In Defense of Audio Books: The Prince of Tides by Pat ConroyThe Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Also by this author: The Great Santini
Published by Open Road Media on August 10th 2010
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 704
Format: Audiobook
ISBN: 9781453204023

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The stirring saga of a man’s journey to free his sister—and himself—from a tragic family history
Tom Wingo has lost his job, and is on the verge of losing his marriage, when he learns that his twin sister, Savannah, has attempted suicide again. At the behest of Savannah’s psychiatrist, Tom reluctantly leaves his home in South Carolina to travel to New York City and aid in his sister’s therapy. As Tom’s relationship with her psychiatrist deepens, he reveals to her the turbulent history of the Wingo family, and exposes the truth behind the fateful day that changed their lives forever. Drawing richly from Pat Conroy’s own troubled upbringing, The Prince of Tides is a sweeping and powerful story of how unlocking the past can be the secret to overcoming the darkest of personal demons.

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In Defense of Audio Books

Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself. ~ Pat Conroy

I’m sure many of you are wondering why I chose to write a review of a book which was written in 1986 — a book about which profuse praise has been written by more accomplished reviewers than I and the book which firmly established Pat Conroy as a bestselling author. Because I’m a daughter of the South Carolina Lowcountry, Pat Conroy’s books have special meaning for me. As I read his lyrical prose  I’m transported to the scenes of my childhood: the beaches, the lush beauty of the coastal highways, the marshes with their streams and rivulets filled with marine life and perfumed with pluff mud, and of course, my beloved Charleston, the city of my birth.  I have read The Prince of Tides twice and I have seen the screen adaptation as well. When I purchased the audio book because of a special promotion, I was unprepared for how much I would love listening to the language of Pat Conroy as read by the late Frank Muller.  It was a singular delight to hear the words of a favorite storyteller read to me by a gifted narrator.

From time to time my fellow bloggers and I have discussed the various literary vehicles available to us in this age of technology. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that most of them still love to read hard copies of books. 🙂  Because we recently went through a major downsizing of our household, I personally prefer eBooks and downloaded audio books since there is no issue with storage. As I listened to Tom Wingo’s character recount his family’s troubled history to his sister Savannah’s psychiatrist, I couldn’t help thinking of a particular literary vehicle which is a lost art.  The art of verbal storytelling was so much a part of life when I was growing up. I can still see my grandfather sitting on his front porch surrounded by children as he told and retold tales about his experiences as a young man. As soon as the last bite of the evening meal was taken, any grandchildren present would take up the refrain “Tell us a story Big Papa!” Possibly that is why I’m particularly fond of audio books — it’s very much like having someone tell you a story.

The audio version of The Prince of Tides opens with the voice of Pat Conroy talking about writing the book that would become his first bestseller. He pays homage to Frank Muller by saying Mr. Muller showed him things in the book he didn’t even know existed and “He gave me, Pat Conroy, the author, he gave me a work of art and I’ve been grateful to him ever since.”  From that point you are drawn inexorably into the world of the Wingo family through the voice of the narrator.  As I listened, I was mesmerized by this story which was not new to me but which was renewed through Mr. Muller’s interpretation of the characters created by the author. Just as a gifted author paints portraits of his characters with his words, Mr. Muller took that sensory pleasure to a new level with his narration. Pat Conroy makes no secret that he draws heavily from his own family dynamic and his own childhood in his work. Each of his characters is complex and fully developed. All are damaged in some way; they are at varying times funny, crazy, abusive, or manipulative.  They can also be kind, loving, loyal and brave. Tom, the storyteller, hides his personal tragedies with flippancy.  His older brother Luke has a deep and abiding sense of honor leading him to champion lost causes. Savannah, their sister, channels her madness into her poetry and an occasional suicide attempt. The Prince of Tides is a story worth being told and it is told by a master storyteller. If you’ve never read the book and even if you have, I highly recommend this audio version.  It adds a dimension to the story that is well worth the time investment.


About Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy is the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Water Is Wide) before publishing his first novel, The Boo. Conroy lived in Beaufort, South Carolina with his wife, writer Cassandra King, until his death in March of 2016.

Rating Report
Overall: five-stars

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