Only Pat Conroy can write such terrible things so beautifully. Only he can turn a phrase in such a way that he makes his point succinctly and eloquently at the same time. Conroy’s inner conflicts imbue this autobiographical work with the love and hate he has for his father, and to a lesser degree, his mother and siblings.
I think Conroy is a master wordsmith. I appreciate the beauty and flow of his writing in all the Pat Conroy books I’ve read. But I struggle with The Death of Santini because it’s almost like hearing a child whine. I can read a spectacular passage, and then be disrupted by Conroy’s complaints and persuasion, trying to convince me that his childhood really did happen the way he says it did, that it was as bad as can be, that he is indeed telling the truth.
I believe him. I don’t need to be convinced. I think his father needed to be convinced. I think his siblings and his extended family need to be convinced. I think Conroy is whining to the wrong crowd.
Unless. Unless this book isn’t meant for me or you or anyone EXCEPT his family… and Conroy himself. And I think it is.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. I just don’t feel like in the intended audience. I do think that if Santini admitted his transgressions while Conroy was a child, the psychological damage would have been minimized, and The Death of Santini would not have had to be written.
The Death of Santini offers a window into the moments of Conroy’s early life that inspired his best-selling novels, and moments of Santini’s later life that inspired Conroy’s love and forgiveness for his father.