Pat Conroy’s ‘The Death of Santini’: A Book Review

Matthew Chernov

As a longtime fan of his purple-prosed fiction, it saddens me to admit that Pat Conroy’s “The Death of Santini” didn’t really work for me. When the book was first announced, I was a bit disappointed to learn that we were getting another memoir instead of a brand new novel. But the thought of Conroy peeling back the layers of his father’s violent personality still held some promise. At least that’s what I’d hoped for. After finishing it, I feel like Pat’s gone back to this autobiographical well once too often.

The opening chapters dealing with his father’s explosive anger and the cruel physical abuse he routinely meted out to his wife and children are the strongest by far. Conroy vividly paints the man as a hair-trigger tyrant who viciously terrorized his family at the drop of a hat. There’s a palpable horror to these early pages, a ‘you-are-there’ intensity…

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