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The Great Santini: A Novel Paperback – March 26, 2002
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“Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.”—Houston Chronicle
“Robust and vivid . . . full of feeling.”—Newsday
“Tender, raucous, often hilarious.”—Booklist
“A fine, funny, brawling book.”—The National Observer
“Stinging authenticity . . . a book that won’t quit.”—The Atlanta Journal
“[Pat] Conroy has captured a different slice of America in this funny, dramatic novel.”—Richmond News-Leader
“Conroy takes aim at our darkest emotions, lets the arrow fly and hits the bull’s-eye almost every time.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
From the Publisher
"Robust and vivid... full of feeling." --- Newsday
"Stinging authenticity... a book that won't quit." -- Atlanta Journal
"A tender, raucous and often hilarious book." -- Booklist
"Conroy has captured a different slice of America in this funny, dramatic novel." -- Richmond News -Leader --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Colonel rules his fighter squadron and his family with an iron first. While this technique is successful in motivating his pilots, it has disastrous effects on his wife and children. His cruelty (both mental and physical) is enough to crush even the strongest soul. While he chides Ben for being a sissy, he suppresses Ben's attempts to act like a man. Yet, the Colonel can do endearing things, like when he gives Ben his original flight jacket on his 18th birthday. No wonder Ben has a love-hate relationship with his old man.
At a new school, Ben quickly establishes himself as a decent scholar and a talented basketball player. Several teachers and his principal see the potential in young Ben, and give him the love and mentoring he could never get from the Colonel. They teach him the importance of standing up for what he believes and to be his own man. When one of Ben's friends is threatened, Ben defies his dad and goes to his aid. In doing so, he becomes more of a man than his father will ever be.
The Great Santini is a fabulous story, and nobody writes with as much passion and beauty as Pat Conroy. Conroy takes us through the emotional gamut from belly laughs to tears and back again. Although some parts of the story are fiction, there is enough truth in that when Conroy's mom filed for divorce from the real Colonel after 33 years of marriage, she handed a copy of The Great Santini to the judge as evidence of the Colonel's violent nature. Conroy is a definitely success story and despite many scars, he was able to overcome his tumultuous upbringing to become the very successful writer he is. But perhaps without that childhood, we would not know the Conroy we know today. Even he admits that "one of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family."
I loathe Bull Meecham. I read this entire book hating him more with every turn of the page. For a while, I waited for redemption in one form or another and then, as he continued to disgust me and his family continued to endure and accept, I resorted to hoping he would just disappear, leave, get reassigned or even die so that his family could breathe and grow without the weight of his presence. My waiting was in vain. The opportunity for healing was minimal at best. There was no silver lining, no happy ending, no rose colored glasses.
This brings me to my next level of dissatisfaction. This story, despite its best efforts, felt anticlimactic. The few times that something big happened, that I was drawn into a pivotal moment in the story by a building, detailed pull of the plot, it was dropped. The problem would come to a certain conclusion, nowhere near the depth of the development and it would just end, moving into some other chapter of life.
My overall feeling of this book was grim determination. I hate to quit a book. I wanted to give it time to make the big change. I delved into this dark world and felt the anger and disappointment of this family every time I picked up the book but I couldn't quit. Perhaps that is how Lillian felt as she walked the path that she had chosen with this arrogant, condescending and ruthless tyrant of a man. As I said, it certainly left an impression. Conroy did not let me down in that respect.
His writing is beautiful, and in my opinion, has grown even more so in the last 25 + years since he wrote this. I respect him because he has not flooded the market with his books like so many other best-selling authors.
This is the story of the Meecham family: Bull, the father, a Marine jet-fighter pilot who refers to himself as "the great Santini"-- as in "The great Santini has spoken"--he is the *law* in the family; Lillian, the mother, a Southern belle who tries to soften her husband's pronouncements and shield her four children from his sometimes-violent wrath; Ben, their son, who is a senior in high school and has a love/hate relationship with Bull; Mary Anne, one year younger than Ben, smart-mouthed and unattractive; and the youngest children, Matt and Karen.
I thought the characters were well-drawn and fully fleshed-out. By the end of this book, I felt that I really *knew* them well. The exploration of the father/son, father/children relationship was masterfully done.
The locale was not as important to this novel as it was in his other books, especially "Beach Music" and "The Prince of Tides". In this respect, the book could have taken place any where...whereas in the aforementioned books, the locales were almost characters in themselves.
All in all, an outstanding book, one that made me sad and happy, made me laugh and cry.