The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: death, abuse, relationships, suicide.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars


As many of you know, I adore Pat Conroy’s writing. Ever since I read South of Broad, I’ve been snagging up copies of his work to read when I can. I was feeling in the mood for one of his novels, and lucked upon finding an audiobook version of The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son on Libby. This was Conroy’s last publication, autobiography/ memoir published in 2013, three years before his own death in 2016. Death of Santini recounts most of his inspiration behind all his other novels, and his own truth about the troubled relationship that he had with his family, but in particular, his father.


After Conroy’s controversial first novel, The Water is Wide, he went on to write his first semi-autobiographical novel, The Great Santini, in which he fictionalized many profound moments and relationships in his own life. The Great Santini was a character modeled after Conroy’s father, Don, a charismatic fighter pilot with a hot temper that was often directed at his wife and children. Conroy was physically abused by his father, and their relationship was an obviously tumultuous one. At times, Conroy was fascinated by the man who fearlessly flew into battle- other times, he wished him dead.

In The Death of Santini, Conroy reflects on the complications of their relationship, and how it affected Conroy, his siblings, and their own successes and failures. In stylistic Conroy fashion, there’s a heavy dose of self-depreciating humor, dry witticism, and dramatic storytelling leading up to the tale of his father’s passing. Conroy more than once states that the Conroy family were “f*cked up”, but despite that, they were a proud lot who loved and hated each other fiercely and in equal measures.

On the audiobook, Conroy reads his own prologue, and then narrator Dick Hill takes it away with a candor and cadence that I think does Conroy justice. His voice brings the family to life, and though it’s a winding tale- also stylistic of Conroy- Hill manages to keep my attention and intrigue throughout the 15 hours of audio. I laughed, teared up, and gaped in disbelief at some of Conroy’s tales, and I know that any fan of him or his work would enjoy The Death of Great Santini, no matter what medium they choose.

Published: October 29, 2013

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

TL/DR: The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy

Read it? YES.

Recommend it? YES!

Buy it? YES. Especially if you have loved his other novels.

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Categories: Book Review, Family Drama, Memoirs, Nonfiction, Southern Literature

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2 replies

  1. Too sad for me!

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