This was the first Pat Conroy novel I ever had the privelege to read. I have recommended it over and over to numerous friends, relatives, and the like. Conroy tells us, sometimes in brutally honest terms, what it is to grow up trapped in a military family. From his own real-life experiences that he has woven into his novel, we are tormented, debating whether or not we love or hate Bull Meecham, the symbol of old-corps Marines that fought so hard for our country. Kudos to Conroy on this one! My favorite of all the novels. I have read this book over 15 times already and every time I reread it, I gather new insight and new appreciation for his mastery of the English language. Conroy's scenery alone is enough to buy this book! No one else can paint a picture of the American South like Pat Conroy!
This might prove to be a disappointment for anyone coming from the Prince of Tides but is still a great portrait of an ugly brute, namely Conroy's own father, the Great Santini of the title. It is a little sentimental and too forgiving of what was basically a thug with a few minor redeeming features but hell, it's the closest to patricide most us of will ever get. There are some missed opportunities with not developing characters such as the feisty Arabella Smalls, the black maid that nonplusses the Great Santini by physically and emotionally repulsing his cowardly bullying. The ending disappoints the most, not for it's actual conclusion but the emotional cop-out, but then again my opinion is prejudiced by my own bullying father who's moral bankruptcy causes me to be disgusted and repulsed rather than forgiving... That said, it's fine but rough edged read, apparently the movie (quoted in William Goldman's "Adventures in the Screen Trade") is reputedly superb especially in Robert Duval's performance of the reprehensible protagonist. As an aside, apparently, Conroy's mother produced the book as "evidence" in her own divorce case. All in all, a good early start from a great writer-recommended.