“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that’s because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.” (The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy)
The Prince of Tides is one of those books where the reason you want to recommend it to everyone is also its greatest weakness. Pat Conroy’s famous story is about a tragically dysfunctional family whose drama and beauty almost boarder on magical realism. It is a perfect story to delve into on a rainy weekend because Conroy paces the suspense and foreshadowing perfectly to guarantee nearly unstoppable reading. The narrator, Tom Wingo, is so good at making inspirational speeches and witty, sarcastic remarks, that he actually made me love sports (and the south) for a fleeting moment. Yet, and I think you must already be sensing the problem here, every single story and sentence are so overly-dramatic that – if you were able to stop reading for long enough – you might cringe and be slightly embarrassed for the book.
Conroy has this habit of telling the reader something in flowery prose that isn’t backed up by the stories. For example, we hear on repeated occasions that the narrator is ‘special’ and ‘rare’, but each story illustrates how normal and humdrum he is – his only gift (for which there is no explanation) is the witty retort and melodramatic line. Yet, if Tom Wingo weren’t such a powerful storyteller, this book would be another piece of slow, modern literature examining the character of the south. Conroy’s ability to reveal dramatic events and to build expectation with such theatrical foreshadowing is what makes this book such a true pleasure to read. So just make sure that when you do decide to pick up this novel, you are in the right state of mind: ready to relinquish your inner critic to the power of a good story.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Further Reading: Another fantastic story teller of family histories is Kate Morton. She doesn’t focus on the south, but her stories are equally satisfying.