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The Prince of Tides: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1987

4.6 out of 5 stars 1,143 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For sheer storytelling finesse, Conroy will have few rivals this season. His fourth novel is a seductive narrative, told with bravado flourishes, portentous foreshadowing, sardonic humor and eloquent turns of phrase. Like The Great Santini, it is the story of a destructive family relationship wherein a violent father abuses his wife and children. Henry Wingo is a shrimper who fishes the seas off the South Carolina coast and regularly squanders what little money he amasses in farcical business schemes; his beautiful wife, Lila, is both his victim and a manipulative and guilt-inflicting mother. The story is narrated by one of the children, Tom Wingo, a former high school teacher and coach, now out of work after a nervous breakdown. Tom alternately recalls his growing-up years on isolated Melrose Island, then switches to the present in Manhattan, where his twin sister and renowned poet, Savannah, is recovering from a suicide attempt. One secret at the heart of this tale is the fate of their older brother Luke; we know he is dead, but the circumstances are slowly revealed. Also kept veiled is "what happened on the island that day"a grisly scene of horror, rape and carnage that eventually explains much of the sorrow, pain and emotional alienation endured by the Wingo siblings. Conroy deftly manages a large cast of characters and a convoluted plot, although he dangerously undermines credibility through a device by which Tom tells the Wingo family saga to Savannah's psychiatrist. Some readers may find here a pale replica of Robert Penn Warren's powerful evocation of the Southern myth; others may see resemblances to John Irving's baroque imaginings. Most, however, will be swept along by Conroy's felicitous, often poetic prose, his ironic comments on the nature of man and society, his passion for the marshland country of the South and his skill with narrative. 250,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo; movie rights to United Artists; BOMC main selection; author tour.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA In order to aid a psychiatrist who is treating his psychotic sister, Tom Wingo arrives in Manhattan and describes figures from his youth, among them an abusive father, a mother obsessed with being accepted by Colleton's tawdry elite, eccentric grandparents, stolid brother Luke, and sensitive, poet-sister Savannah. Despite the book's length, scenes such as Grandmother Tolitha's visit to Ogletree's funeral home to try out coffins, Grandfather's yearly re-enactment of the stations of the Cross, Mrs. Wingo's passive-aggressive retaliation by serving her husband dog food, Luke's Rambo-like attempt to keep Colleton from becoming a nuclear plant site, and a bloody football game with the team's first black player deserve students' attention. While Conroy's skills at characterization and storytelling have made the book popular, his writing style may place it among modern classics. He adds enough detail so that readers can smell the salty low-country marsh, see the regal porpoise Snow against the dark ocean, and taste Mrs. Wingo's gourmet cooking and doctored dog food. The story is wholly Tom's; Conroy resists the temptation to include the vantage points of other characters. It is the reluctance of Tom to tell all, to recount rather than recreate his family's past, and to face up to the Wingos' mutual rejections that maintain the tension just below the story's surface. It is Tom's coming clean about his past that lays bare the truth and elevates Prince of Tides above a scintillating best seller. Alice Conlon, Univ . of Houston
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (December 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553268880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553268881
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 24, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In Pat Conroy's masterpiece, The Prince of Tides, not much is going right in Tom Wingo's life. He drinks too much, has lost his teaching/coaching job, and his marriage is on the rocks. He grew up with an abusive father whose violent behavior left physical and emotional scars on all the Wingo children. His mother was more supportive, but was powerless to protect her children from her husband's wrath. She also put her social ambitions before anything else in her life. The only that has gone right in Tom's life is that he lived his entire life in the low country of Charleston, SC--one of the most beautiful and nurturing places on this earth.

Things come to a head when Tom learns that his beautiful and talented twin, Savannah, has tried to commit suicide again. As she lays comatose in a New York City mental hospital, Savannah's psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein, urges Tom to travel to New York. Doctor Lowenstein realizes that the only thing that can help save Savannah is to unlock the secrets of her terrible childhood (something that all the Wingo children have long suppressed and refuse to talk about). Tom flies to New York reluctantly, and at first, presents Dr. Lowenstein with a façade made up of humor, sarcasm and even rudeness. But Dr. Lowenstein eventually is able to break down Tom's protective shell to discover the horrors that took place during the Wingo's childhood. She also realizes that in trying to save Savannah, that this might also be Tom's last chance to save himself. But it turns out that Lowenstein has erected her own protective mask to hide her own unhappiness. With a remote husband and a spoiled son, Tom is able to turn the tables and help the good doctor in promoting a little self-healing as well.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I reserve my five star rating for books that stand out as the best of the best. This is on the list of my top ten books, so I don't hesitate to put it as a five star book. Unlike some of Conroy's other books, this story line flows very easily, the plot seems reasonable, and it is as if you could have been there in South Carolina with the characters. This is a book for people who love to read-- it seems like Conroy is writing a long and beautiful poem, rather than a novel. But, don't get me wrong, the writing is not heavy or Faulkner-like that you can't get through it. It is a beautiful story of Tom Wingo as he deals with his sister's mental illnesses, his marital problems, and his childhood. As a person from the south, the book seemed very relevant in the way that family dynamics play out and the way childhoods are remembered. I would recommend the book for anyone who wants a captivating story, eloquent writing, and a taste of southern life. There is also some very good humor, too, which I appreciated!
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Format: Hardcover
Has anyone out there read many and many books over the years to the point where the books you read as of late don't interest you or excite you as much as they used to? Well, I'm one of those people. Not a lot of books these days fail to grab my attention with such surreal realism and heart and emotion as Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides did. When I picked up this book last August, I had no idea what a ride I was in for. I read the first 200 pages with keen interest but had to put the book down due to starting a new semester at college. Now five months later and with finals and a wacky semester down the drain, I finally had the time to read the rest of the four hundred plus pages. The minute I picked up the book again after five long months all the details I had read and long forgotten came back to me like shooting stars. The magic of being able to envision the charectors and the scenes of the best and worst moments of their lives had returned to me after years of diminsihing like a candle. Prince of Tides is an extraordinary epic based on the Wingo family and their trials and tribulations throughout their lives. Conroy sketches out every detail of his characters with naturalness rarely read. He also managed to speak on a great many deals of horros that plague people like me every day of our lives, such as, mental illness, child and spousal abuse, rape, psychotherepy, the Vietnam War, racism in the South and betrayal. But I think that the greatest gift that Conroy offeres in this novel is the gift of love. He writes Susan and Tom's story of love and understanding with major depth. He doesn't simply make it a happy ending but one of lost fates; if only they had met early on in life. It's a wonderful novel that all people on all walks of life can relate to, especially the ones who weep a fate lost.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read The Prince of Tides in 1984 and have read it many more times since then. It is my number one favorite book, and I have been reading for 45 years. Conroy spins a tale of a family and southern town in a prose that is poetic. The Wingos are a tragic family, yet paradoxically have golden memories, interspersed with some of the most humorous imbroglios imaginable. Tom Wingo's recollections of growing up in the low country marshes are the heart of the story, and telling them to Dr. Lowenstein is the avenue to healing himself and a form for the author to promote this dialog. All along the way every chapter is a story unto itself. Many vivid characters are introduced, in such astounding fashion! Who could dream up a Mr. Fruit, or Tolitha's coffin shopping expedition? So many adventures, and yet with such underlying sorrow. Conroy's gift is his ability to intersperse his books with humor and immaculate prose. I have copied down some of his phrases as treasures to quote. Reading some of the the one, two and three star reviews made my heart sink, for these reviewers just don't seem to recognize one of the greatest books of the last quarter century. I do agree with anyone who thought the movie made by Streisand focused predominately on the love affair, and in effect may have quenched a savvy reader's desire to read the novel. Please read this book and recommend it to others!
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