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19 September 2015

Pat Conroy: Prince of Tides

Superb emotional story by Pat Conroy
Many of you will have seen the Oscar winning movie of Prince of Tides with Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte. It was a great movie but you are really missing something of this great emotional story if you don't read the book as well.

Pat Conroy is one of my favourite contemporary American authors. His prose is almost poetic and his love for his the beauty of South Carolina's low country stuns the imagination.

Prince of Tides is the story of the Wingo family living in comfortable poverty on a small island of the South Carolina coast. It is the turbulent story of Tom Wingo and his supremely talented but very troubled twin sister Savannah as they come to grips with the legacy of their extraordinary family and the dark things that happen to them during their childhood. It is also the story of their elder brother Luke, a Vietnam War hero with dreams of how his home country should remain.

A lot of the story is set in New York where Savannah is recovering from yet another suicide attempt. Tom, now an unemployed English teacher and football coach, leaves his family and travels to NY (which he hates) to help Savannah, now a renowned poet telling the world about the Carolinas. To help Savannah he must tell her psychiatrist, the beautiful but enigmatic Dr Susan Lowenstein, things about his family history that he and Savannah have repressed to try to keep their sanity.

While the story is really about the Wingos, the sub-story about Tom's relationship with "Lowenstein" is also laced with psychiatric and romantic undertones as Tom and Susan discover how to help one another.

This wonderful book is arguably Conroy's most acclaimed and well-known novel. While I have seen the movie several times I am so pleased that I chose to read the novel as an audiobook narrated by the late Frank Muller. In his introduction to the audiobook Pat Conroy said that Muller "gave me ... a work of art". I totally agree as it took me into the dark world of the Wingos and the strange relationship between Tom and Lowenstein in a way that would not have been possible reading the book myself.

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