©1976 Pat Conroy; (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
An insightful and moving story of the coming of age of a young man whose life has been dominated by a complex and violent father. The narration is one of the best I've heard.
I had never read this author or heard of the book, I just bought it from the sale as I was looking for something new. It is SO worth it. I listen when I walk and I find myself laughing out loud at parts of this book. I have recommended it to several people and I am going to rent the movie. If you are considering this book go for it.
This has to be one of my favourite audibles thus far! Pat Conroy is a genius that can keep me laughing/crying from the beginning to the end. The narrator was superb!
I've listened to many Audible selections over the past few years, but this is the first one for which I felt compelled to write a review. This truly is, hands down, the best listen I've had from Audible.
I remember seeing the movie adaptation of this book when I was a young boy, but I had yet to read the novel. Taking the opportunity to listen to books as I commute, I am thoroughly pleased with my selection of "The Great Santini".
Conroy's story of growing up in a Marine pilot's family and a year in the Deep South of the early 1960's is an example of the true art of storytelling. Having been in the military for over a decade, I readily recognized the typical trials and joys of the military family. The traditions and camaraderie amongst the military men was spot on. I appreciated Conroy's turn of phrases and the pictures he paints, capturing the essence of the internal joys and struggles of the military, both for the soldier and of the family.
As for the narration, Dick Hill was hopefully recognized with an Oscar for his performance on this book. He provides each character with a unique voice and reads Conroy's prose as though at a poetry reading, fully engaging each scene within the listener's mind. There were several times I was sure I was listening to an ensemble cast! I will be looking for further volumes narrated by Hill.
If you've never read "The Great Santini", either get this Audible version or read it yourself!
Warning: This book does contain strong language and adult situations/discussions.
The Great Santini was Pat Conroy's first novel, and it was the one that rocketed him to literary fame in America. It's easy to see why. Though troubled at times by identifiable rookie errors like over-repetition and unrealistic dialog, the book--and particularly the writing--possess an astonishing depth for a debut effort. By now readers have come to identify Conroy as one of the great literary voices of his generation, but when Santini was published, he was an unknown Southern writer trying to tell what was essentially a fictionalized account of his own childhood. Happily, he succeeded.
Anyone who has read even one or two Pat Conroy books will recognize in this first novel patterns that will become familiar in later works. A loving but abusive father. A beautiful mother. The military. A family trying to make their way in the world despite many hardships and tragedy. And of course, the ever-present undercurrent of coastal South Carolina. These were all evidently ingredients of Conroy's own life, and he weaves them into his fiction with unusual skill. His work, though at times harsh, is a pleasure to read.
What's great about The Great Santini is the way Conroy makes Bull Meecham such a sympathetic character. Even though he's abusive, stubborn, foul-mouthed, and often just simply unpleasant, he wants to do the right thing. He's intensely patriotic and utterly competitive, and he truly loves his family. Yet all too often, his demons get the best of him. When it happens, you feel terrible for his suffering family, but you feel bad for Bull, too.
The audiobook version is surprisingly good. I wasn't sure Dick Hill, who provided a brilliant Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly's early books, would be right for Conroy's Southern narrative rhythms, but he was excellent. His loud, brash portrayal of Bull Meecham is perfect and really makes the character come alive.
As in any Pat Conroy book, there's a lot of language and some very difficult scenes, including some graphic crimes. But there are also plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as of course page after page of simply beautiful writing. For a compelling and powerful picture of what life in the South was like for a military family in the 1960s, look no further. It's not Conroy's best--he was still finding himself as a writer--but it's still great and definitely recommended.
I read this book many years ago, and loved it. I enjoyed it just as much when I recently listened to the audio-book. The year is 1962, and Col. Bull Meacham is once again moving his family to a new town. He is a flyer in the Marines, and a bigger-than-life character who rules his family like a drill sergeant. The story focuses on Bull's 18 year-old son, Ben, a basketball star and a sensitive boy torn in a love-hate relationship with his father. Racial tensions mark this powerful book filled with humor and heartbreak. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. While the movie is very good, this book is even better. The narrator does a solid job. This family of six comes alive on the pages of this novel. Listen to it or read it!
I just finished watching the 1979 movie adaptation of this book which I finished about two hours prior. Let's face it, 1970's-1980's cinema seldom plays well in 2012; however this movie did which is a complement to the screen writer of course. Let's face it, the real Bull Meecham in the book could never have been realistically portrayed by Robert Duvall or anyone else and survive studio scrutiny any more than anything in Conroy's Lords Of Discipline be portrayed at all in any form and survive. By the way, the screen play for Lords of Discipline was a total disaster, don't bother.
Just like Bull, The Great Santini is terribly flawed, imperfect, at times entirely disgusting and irredeemable; but you cannot help but love each and every character. This book has guts, heart and above all the ability to rise above it all and show love in a way few books can. Ben stole the show in the book, as did Michael O'Keefe in the movie. Lillian came in a close second in both, the actress superb. Without any hesitation, The Great Santini far exceeds Lords Of Disicipline in too many ways to mention and yet, in the end, I love them both.
Oh, I almost forgot, an Oscar performance for Dick HIll, genius reading, stunning!!
Stand By For A Fighter Pilot!
This is my second Pat Conroy story and I find he's becoming a favorite author. He really gets into the details in his books. He makes you truly care about the characters.
This is the story of the Meecham family and their slightly crazy fighter-pilot father Wilbur "Bull" Meecham. I understand Mr. Conroy based Bull Meecham on his father. If that is truly so, Pat had quite a volatile upbringing!
The narrator gave a distinct voice to each of the different characters. He does a good job showing the moods of Bull Meecham.
The story mostly revolves around Bull and his relationship with the military and with his son Ben.
I found myself feeling just like Bull's son, Ben. He has a love-hate relationship with his father, as do I. Bull takes care of his family, and sort-of shows his love. Then he goes crazy and destroys all the good he has done. I was on edge whenever there was a scene with Bull Meecham in it. You never knew what he was going to do.
I had a hard time leaving this story. I wanted to learn more about Ben's life. And even though I disliked Bull, I was still sad at the end of the story.
Since taking my first creative writing class in 2008 the pleasure I used to get from reading has been greatly reduced. I notice things I never noticed before. That said, I think I rate books pretty generously. Anyone who actually manages to write a whole book and then get it published deserves an extra star.
Everything, as it turns out, in this story about an overbearing, sometimes offensive and dictatorial father who only wants the best for and from his family. Partly autobiographical, this is a great listen - and the movie, starring Robert Duvall as The Great Santini, is excellent.
I love Pat Conroy. His writing is right up there with the best of them. He tells a great story with great style. The Great Santini was his first published novel, and it is a great story, but not my favorite Pat Conroy novel. So much of it is indicative of the great Conroy novels to come, but I have to admit that I got a little bored and even irritated with the "boy" stuff - the coming-of-age rituals of the young boys and the we're-of-age rituals of the men who should know better. It was just too much for me. I understand that these fighter pilot types are pretty high strung and high on testosterone and need to goof around together in order to let off steam (my brother was a fighter pilot), but I just didn't enjoy reading about it. It seemed to drag on forever. I would also have liked to see Bull develop into a real human being in a more concrete way. In other words, He does change toward the end of the story, or I should say, his real metal is discovered, albeit too late, but I would have liked to see some hint of his humanness before then. I guess there are a lot of people who keep it well hidden the way Bull did, until they just can't hide it any more (my brother was one of those). I know of men who stay so aloof from their true feelings that they seem disconnected from reality until they lose everything. I think Bull was on the brink of losing everything. He follows a formula for living instead of really living. It is just hard to read about someone so unbending. That said, I love the characters in this story. Lillian and Maryann are fabulous, as well as Sammy and Toomer, and of course Ben. I even loved Bull's character, even though I am not sure I would have liked to know him personally, if it were even possible to know someone like that. He was a son-of-a- b____ for whom I am grateful that men like him do really exist and are willing to put everything on the line to protect my freedom.
Narrator Dick Hill's characterizations are just about as good as they get, and he had plenty of opportunity for a wide variety of them in this story. When he was reading Lillian, he made me believe he was this Southern steel magnolia. When he read Bull, I was scared to death of him. My one and only complaint about Dick Hill is that when he is just the narrator and not a character, he sounds really "Brooklyn" and reminds me of Howard Cosell. I would listen to him read another book in a heartbeat, though, Brooklyn or no Brooklyn.
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