From time to time, I encounter a book that fully engrosses me. Two such books were Stephen King’s It and Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. Not only were these novels well written, but they also featured characters I cared about. I distinctly remember reading The Pillars of the Earth and being blown away when a key character died. I was so flabbergasted that I stopped reading and called my friend, who had also read the book, to let him know I’d made it to that part. Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides profoundly moved me just as much as the aforementioned novels.
I work with a woman at the supermarket named Judy. For the past couple of years she’s been telling me I should read The Prince of Tides. Last year I downloaded the audiobook, and I didn’t get around to listening to it until now. Going into the book, I had high expectations. Based on the reviews I read, people felt this novel was a masterpiece and that its narrator, Frank Muller, brought it to life in a way that was mesmerizing.
Now that I’m done the book, I’m glad to report that The Prince of Tides was one of the best I’ve ever experienced, and Muller’s narration kept my rapt attention from start to finish. The majority of the novel was based on Pat Conroy’s life in the south, and this reality came through in the incredibly descriptive language. Conroy is a beautifully metaphorical writer whose prose manifests scintillating scenarios and gripping drama.
After reading the The Prince of Tides, I watched the film adaptation directed by and starring Barbra Streisand. Her and Nick Nolte were terrific, and the film did a fine job of condensing Conroy’s tome into an incredibly enjoyable film. I was also delighted to see my all-time favorite comedian, George Carlin, in the Oscar-nominated picture. Most of all, I loved the music. The score, composed by James Newton Howard, was one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I’ve ever heard; it was simply breathtaking. Like any movie, the book was better, but the film didn’t have any radical departures from the source material; it just made it work in a different medium.
If you enjoy a good story, I recommend you read the novel first and then watch the movie. Both are beautiful works of art everyone should experience.
To prepare you for both, below you’ll find:
- The official synopsis for the book
- Frank Muller narrating a book
- The main title song from the movie
- A trailer for the film
Here’s the official description of the book from Pat Conroy’s website:
In this best-selling novel, Pat Conroy tells the story of Tom Wingo, his twin sister, Savannah, and the dark and violent past of the family into which they were born.
Set in New York City and the low-country of South Carolina, THE PRINCE OF TIDES opens when Tom, a high school football coach whose marriage and career are crumbling, flies from South Carolina to New York after learning of his twin sister’s suicide attempt. Savannah is one of the most gifted poets of her generation, and both the cadenced beauty of her art and the jumbled cries of her illness are clues to the too-long-hidden story of her wounded family. In the paneled offices and luxurious restaurants of New York City, Tom and Susan Lowenstein, Savannah’s psychiatrist, unravel a history of violence, abandonment, commitment, and love. And Tom realizes that trying to save his sister is perhaps his last chance to save himself.
With passion and a rare gift of language, Pat Conroy moves from present to past, tracing the amazing history of the Wingos from World War II through the final days of the war in Vietnam and into the 1980s, drawing a rich range of characters: the lovable, crazy Mr. Fruit, who for decades has wordlessly directed traffic at the same intersection in the southern town of Colleton; Reese Newbury, the ruthless, patrician land speculator who threatens the Wingos’ only secure worldly possession, Melrose Island; Herbert Woodruff, Susan Lowenstein’s husband, a world-famous violinist; Tolitha Wingo, Savannah’s mentor and eccentric grandmother, the first real feminist in the Wingo family.
Pat Conroy reveals the lives of his characters with surpassing depth and power, capturing the vanishing beauty of the South Carolina low-country and a lost way of life.
Main Title Song