The Great Santini is the third book written by Pat Conroy. It is about U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot, Lieutenant Colonel W.P. “Bull” Meecham and his family. This story takes place beginning during the summer prior to the Cuban missile crisis and ends that following May. Bull is the new commander of a fighter squadron at Ravenel Air Station, South Carolina where the two previous squadron commanders weren’t good leaders. Bull, a strict disciplinarian and abusive husband and father, is assigned the task to whip the unit in shape in case the United States ends up going to war against Cuba and Russia. This novel depicts more of the family life and their adaption of the community more than Bull’s work on base, but also shows how the two tie in together. Pat Conroy modeled Bull after his own father who had been a Marine Corps fighter pilot and an abusive father.
I watched the movie that was based on this novel with the same title a couple nights before I started reading it. All the way through it I was comparing the two. I like the book a lot better than the movie which says a lot since I also enjoyed the movie. The military aspect of it made me think of my ten years in the U.S. Air Force two decades later than the period depicted in the novel. I was enlisted, not an officer, but I was never as strict as Bull and definitely not an abusive husband or father. But with the strict discipline adhered to by any branch of the military, could see how it could happen. I also like how the author also depicts the turbulent times in the southern United states during that time period. The author also does a good job of tying in humor with the seriousness of the book. If you have seen the movie and like it, I recommend reading the book. It has so much more than what is shown in the movie.
You can purchase the book in various formats from the following sites:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/great-santini-pat-conroy/1100180840?ean=9780553381559
Tim’s Rating: *****
(Five out of five stars)
I’m off to read another book. Check back periodically for more book reviews.