I just finished Pat Conroy’s latest book, The Death of Santini.
I am a fan of Conroy’s works and list him among my favorite authors. He writes beautiful prose and creates characters that are both deeply flawed and often very lovable. He is known for writing about dysfunctional families. The books are full of crazy mothers and abusive fathers. There are always people with deep psychological trauma and it is very clear that Conroy is writing from personal experience. Some of the books that I’ve read such as The Water is Wide and The Pat Conroy Cookbook are autobiographical, and marketed as such. However his other books such as The Great Santini, Beach Music, and Prince of Tides are sold as fiction, but obviously have more reality to them than a reader wants to consider. Especially The Great Santini which is full of stories from Conroy’s actual childhood.
The Death of Santini is a very interesting addition to Conroy’s catalogue. This book is autobiographical and tells the “true” story of his life and his family. He talks about his childhood and how and why he wrote the many books that he did. He discusses his family’s reaction to the publication of The Great Santini. Needless to say, a child writing a book about such a brutal and abusive father was not going to go over well with the relatives.
But the most interesting thing about the book is his real life relationship to his father. To say that it started rocky would be the understatement of the year. However, Conroy writes about how after the publication of The Great Santini, his father may have looked at himself for the first time. Over the years, Pat was able to come to love his father and the end of the book is about how the family rallied around this man and his death, despite the trauma and emotions that came with decades of abuse.
It turns out that Colonel Don Conroy came to love the limelight and celebrity that he gained from becoming a literary figure. He had movies made about him and in the end was proud of the work of his son. This was a very interesting book, but one that should be read after some of his others. Conroy writes this with the assumption that you have read at least some, if not all of his previous books. But, as an addendum to his collection, it is enlightening and a pleasure. Go grab a Conroy book, if you never have before and learn a little something about the South, dysfunction, and about yourself.