The Prince of Tides novel

Dust jacket of “Prince of Tides” shows marshes as storm rolls in
South Carolina tidal marshes

The Prince of Tides is one of those rare novels capable of making a poor Southern family interesting without first making them rich.

Pat Conroy sets his tale on the South Carolina coast, home to the Wingo family.

Tom Wingo’s marriage to a doctor has been rocky since Tom was fired as a high school football coach.

When Tom’s twin sister, Savanna, a poet, attempts suicide, Tom flies to in New York City to be with her.

From what Savanna has said in the hospital and from her poetry, psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein senses deep trauma.

Since Savanna refuses to see Tom, Lowenstein asks Tom to meet with her regularly to fill in the gaps in Savanna’s history.

Those sessions allow Conroy to shift readers’ attention between past and present.

In bits and pieces, Tom lays out the Wingo family history from World War II to the 1980s. Some of the bits are horrific, but Conroy renders none salacious.

Conroy has a keen instinct for the details that make places and people pop off the page with cinematic clarity.

The Wingos are a messed-up family, but finally the twins and their older brother, Luke, mature enough to forgive their parents “for not having been born perfect.”

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Houghton Mifflin Co., ©1986. 567 p.
1986 bestseller #9; my grade: A

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Carolinian is saved by its subplot

The Carolinian is a historical novel set in South Carolina in the early days the American Revolution.

Rafael Sabatini’s novel fails as a romance—its loving couple don’t trust each other an inch—but a supporting plot almost makes up for the book’s predictable and silly love story.


The Carolinian by Rafael Sabatini

Grosset & Dunlap, 1924,  414 pp. 1925 bestseller # 9. My grade: C.


Cover of 1925 edition of The Carolinian: title and author name in black type on blue cover.As the novel opens, Harry Latimer’s fiance, Myrtle Carey, has returned his ring upon learning he’s joined the Sons of Liberty.

Harry suspects fortune-hunting, English army officer Capt. Mandeville has inserted a spy into the rebel cell.

That’s the only time in the novel, Harry gets something right: Harry has the psychological perceptivity of a hedgehog, and Myrtle is his soul-mate.

The novel’s real interest is lawyer John Rutledge.

Carolinians select Rutledge to lead them in the defense of Charles Town and the fight for independence from the Crown, despite his tendency to be somewhat imperial himself.

Fearing the town’s residents will be slaughtered by overwhelming odds, Rutledge initiates negotiations for surrender.

While passions flare around him, Rutledge scribbles away with a pencil, oblivious to everything but the document on which he’s working.

Although the Rutledge incident didn’t happen the way Sabatini tells it, it should have: It’s far more exciting than Harry and Myrtle.

 © 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni