Customer Reviews: A Tidewater Morning
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on June 12, 2000
Styron revisits old themes in this collection subtitled "Three Tales from Youth" and set, two thirds of the way, in Tidewater Virginia in the earlier part of the twentieth century. In it we see three episodes from the life of Styron's autobiographical protagonist Paul Whitehurst at ages twenty, ten, and thirteen.
In "Love Day" Paul, a young Marine lieutenant, experiences intense homesickness in the Pacific Ocean during the waning months of WWII. This is well-written but perhaps the least impressive of the three tales. Next is best. "Shadrach" is a wonderfully affecting, funny, and touching story of a 99-year old former slave who walks all the way from Clay County, Alabama, to Virginia to die and be buried in his homeplace. The title story shows Paul's struggle to accept his mother's approaching death from cancer and pays especial attention to the complex relationship between his parents.
Despite Styron's wonderfully indulgent and rococo style, these stories make for fairly quick reads, as we are carried along on a stream of telling detail and crystalline reminiscence. Not that the work lacks complication. As with his larger-canvased works, Styron deals with issues of race, Southern identity, heterosexual love, courage, cowardice, religion, and art. Here and there the stories are marred by facile liberal pieties and stilted dialogue, but for the most part it is a pleasure to watch this old master cast perhaps one last look at the familiar but still-fertile landscape of his heart and imagination.
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on January 15, 2014
I have read most of Styron's books and after reading Darkness Visible, I was very curious about the early years of his life. His obituary mentioned the book as a key to understanding his depression, so I quickly ordered it and couldn't put it down. What a story! Since then I have begun reading his daughter's book called Reading My Father and wonder if she mentions his childhood experiences. I'd recommend all three books to anyone interested in understanding depression. Styron was able to describe it so well.
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on March 13, 2000
Styron raises enough intriguing issues and questions that A Tidewater Morning could have been a full-bodied novel. Instead, we are treated to three short stories that, while somewhat disjointed, do manage to flow with relative ease. There's little new material addressed here: Styron returns to his favorite themes of slavery, war, and death, but he does manage some fresh twists that allow Tidewater to stand memorably on its own merits.
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on April 24, 2010
I first met William Styron when a mutual acquaintance - Sophie's Choice - introduced us at The Modern Library's list of Top 100 Novels. I bumped into him later with his friend Darkness Visible at The Modern Library's list of Top 100 Non-Fiction Books. I thought I knew him by the time he told me all about The Confessions of Nat Turner.

And so it was that I chose to meet him again on A Tidewater Morning at my local Salvation Army bookstore. My cost of admission was $0.25 and I decided to meet him again because his alma mater, Duke University, won the 2010 NCAA Basketball Championship.

Styron's an interesting dude. Both he and his father suffered from depression and his mother died from breast cancer when he was 14. He was a Marine, an editor at McGraw-Hill, and once provoked an employer to fire him so he could write his first novel. He died from pneumonia in Martha's Vineyard at the age of 81.

Above the door to his studio he posted a quote from Gustave Flaubert: "Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work."

As I read the three stories that make up A Tidewater Morning I was struck by how unreal his descriptions, characterizations, and dialog were to my senses. Yet, it all works beautifully in the end. The greatest triumph of this book is the way these three stories create an arc of experience that rips your perceived ideas of meaning from the fabric of your life and then sews them back together with even stronger stitching because you made the effort to reach, and read, the title story.

I didn't think A Tidewater Morning compared very well to his other writings until I sat down to write this. But it does. I can tell you this because, although I've never literally met him, I feel now I've not only met him, but know him in a way that was impossible before reading this little book.

I'll tell you what. Let me know if you don't like this book. I'll gladly repay you the quarter I spent on it.

Here are the three most telling quotes from William Styron's A Tidewater Morning:

* "... whenever I was overtaken by a spasm of metaphysical creepiness, and the sheer unreality of this endless war enfolded me like a damp, mildewed shroud, I thought of my father ... How did he ever imagine that his son would grow up to be a killer, not only willing but eager to kill - to anticipate killing with crude, erotic excitement? - Love Day

* "`Death ain't nothin' to be afraid about,' he blurted in a quick, choked voice. `It's life that's fearsome! Life! ... When you're dead nobody knows the difference. Death ain't much.`" - Shadrach

* "Repeat these words after me. Are you listening? Although earth's foundations crumble and the mountains be shaken into the midst of the seas, yet alone shall I prevail." - A Tidewater Morning
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VINE VOICEon March 7, 2015
William Styron is an American institution for writing. From his first novel, published when he was twenty-six, to "Tidewater Morning", Styron has managed to touch four generations of readers.
He's most famous for "Sophie's Choice" and deservedly so, but "Tidewater Morning" is a delightful piece of literature comprising three stories inspired by Sturon's youth; each one very powerful; each one a coming of age story that usurps Stephen King's "The Body" with equal power and an eloquence that few writers have.
Styron's most famous recently for his work with depression and mental illness. His book, "Darkness Visible" captures an honesty about depression that not even Sylvia Plath could manage. Styron was very choosy about words, torturously seeking out honesty. The honesty of these three stories from the point of view of a young man, a young adolescent and a young boy is literary mastery at it's best.
Those people in the Tidewater Region of the East Coast (Norfolk, Virginia Beach) will connect in a historical way on top of feeling the growth pangs of life events that change and form us and mold us into who we are.
Not only will you love this book but it's a wonderful book for gifting.
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on January 10, 2012
I purchased this book for a short holiday read, and it was excellent. The book is composed of three short stories which take the reader back to 1930s Virginia. The stories are absorbing and Styron's writing style is beautifully evocative.
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on February 27, 2016
All three stories were good, and I enjoyed them mainly in that the main character in each (who was in fact Styron himself) was close to my age, and our stories are similar - would that I could have written as well as he did. The middle story didn't appeal as much as one and three, but all were good.
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on December 10, 2014
This memoir tells three related stories. Though set in the segregated South of the Depression and therefore dated, they are written in a rich, evocative and colorful style that makes their eloquence timeless. He writes acute observations of small but telling detail. Sometimes he turns this on himself and confesses less than noble motivations of youth with such matter of fact simplicity that, rather than recoil, we empathize and recognize the same within ourselves. And though his story is not our story, he shows us a humanity we share.
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on January 16, 2000
This book is a beautiful intermingling of past memeories and present strife. The war time world of Paul Whitehurst is made apparent; his childhood battles were fought just as passionately as any battle in WWII. Paul is a fictional character full of wit and wisdom. He comes alive in the three separate stories of his life. Your only thought at the end of this (way to short) novel is that you wish there was some kind of continuation or sequel to Paul Whitehurst's story.
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on October 15, 2014
These tales, written about three periods in Styron's life, are so pure in the telling that it seems as if he is telling the reader stories of his life and not fiction. The story of Shadrack, especially bring to life the African American elderly I knew as a child growing up in rural South Georgia in the late 40's and early 50's. Styron has the ability to bring the old man to life. His description of the marble playing boys made me feel I was right there in the hot dirt along with the boys. He is a master of his craft.
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