It isn’t often that the two halves of my soul (the reader and the writer) agree on a book’s worth and find something different to admire in the process. Yet this is exactly what Pat Conroy accomplished with The Prince of Tides.
I’ve seen the movie, it’s old, and it is one that has always stuck with me. To date I think it is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by Nick Nolte. His chemistry with Barbara Streisand “Lowenstein” by the end, just gets ya.
So here is what I loved as a reader:
- Conroy pulled me in immediately. Tom Wingo is cranky, gruff, and jumped from the page fully formed – albeit with Nolte’s voice in my head.
- The writing is rich and his details are at times so alive I could smell the pungent waters Tom Wingo grows up on.
- He didn’t dummy down his words. (Helps that the book was published in 1986 long before Twitter changed how we read.)
- The characters are exceedingly well formed and the bonds between the family are exquisite in their heartbreak and their love.
The story does deal with dark themes and social issues on multiple fronts and while some things may not be politically correct by today’s standards, the landscape of the story benefits from the reality of its time. One word of warning, it could trigger someone with a history of abuse, but even these scenes are done with relative care.
As a writer:
- The lyrical flow of the novel moves with the same tides as the island’s the story revolves around. In certain chapters I could feel the ebb and in others, the incoming tide by his writing’s rhythm. Whether this was conscious on Conroy’s part or not, it added an additional depth to the novel.
- His ability to tackle multiple social issues and allowing the reader to examine the issue and form their own opinions.
I can’t say that there are many downsides to The Prince of Tides. Like all literary books, it can get weighed down by prose, but the changes from past to present POVs keeps this at a minimum. I would have liked to understood Savannah better, the book has her demons happening at an earlier age than the movie does, but the trade off was that Luke felt more fleshed out in the book. The book ends the same as the movie, yet I felt cheated only because the written ending does not have the same visual pause and poignancy the movie carries off.
All in all, I’ll be reading more of Pat Conroy’s novels. I hope they can compare to this one. Five Stars