Also by this author: The Prince of Tides
Published by Brilliance Audio, Dial Press Trade Paperback on March 26th 2002
Genres: Literary Fiction
Step into the powerhouse life of Bull Meecham. He’s all Marine—fighter pilot, king of the clouds, and absolute ruler of his family. Lillian is his wife—beautiful, southern-bred, with a core of velvet steel. Without her cool head, her kids would be in real trouble. Ben is the oldest, a born athlete whose best never satisfies the big man. Ben’s got to stand up, even fight back, against a father who doesn’t give in—not to his men, not to his wife, and certainly not to his son. Bull Meecham is undoubtedly Pat Conroy’s most explosive character—a man you should hate, but a man you will love.
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Can it be possible that it has been over a year since author Pat Conroy left this life? Despite the body of work he left behind, it is sad to know there will be no more books from this gifted storyteller. In a previous post, I reviewed The Prince of Tides, my all time favorite of Mr. Conroy’s books. Today I’d like to share another of my favorites, The Great Santini, which was the author’s first novel. The storyline centers around Marine fighter pilot Colonel “Bull” Meechum, self-nicknamed The Great Santini, and his relationships with his family, his fellow Marines, and his relationship to the world in general. Frequently described as “a warrior without a war”, Bull is portrayed as arrogant, cruel, and domineering. But don’t be surprised if you also see him as tender and funny. He is a man you shouldn’t like at all – but you might, just a little – a complex character who is admired, hated and loved by his family. Pat Conroy was a genius with descriptive language and I especially love the portraits he painted of my beloved South Carolina Low Country in his books. In The Great Santini, he touches on the racial tensions and social mores that defined the Sixties in the South while giving readers insight into the life of a military family constantly on the move, never able to completely settle, and struggling to fit into the communities where they’re stationed.
Dick Hill‘s narration takes this story to a higher level. I haven’t seen the movie which stars Robert Duval, but just listening to Mr. Hill’s performance was enough to convince me that this is one of those books which is better to listen to than to read. His voices for all the characters, from the children Ben, Mary Anne, Matthew and Karen to Bull’s steel magnolia of a wife, Lillian, to the overbearing Bull himself, are perfect.
The Great Santini was widely acclaimed at the time of its publication, but that acclaim came at a great personal cost to Pat Conroy. The fact that Bull Meechum is based on the author’s father, Donald, caused a deep family rift although father and son eventually reconciled and Donald Conroy was able to take pride in his son’s accomplishments. I would be surprised if this turns out to be your favorite Pat Conroy novel, but because there will be no more, you need to experience The Great Santini, if you haven’t already, and I highly recommend the audio version.
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