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The Great Santini

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  20,628 ratings  ·  754 reviews
Step into the powerhouse life of Bull Meecham. He's all Marine --- fighter pilot, king of the clouds, and absolute ruler of his family. Lillian is his wife -- beautiful, southern-bred, with a core of velvet steel. Without her cool head, her kids would be in real trouble. Ben is the oldest, a born athlete whose best never satisfies the big man. Ben's got to stand up, even f ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 440 pages
Published December 1st 1987 by Bantam (first published 1976)
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Best Southern Literature
50th out of 847 books — 2,109 voters
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Quirky Southern Fiction
43rd out of 656 books — 1,657 voters

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Community Reviews

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Pat Conroy is one of those writers who can write only one story (John Irving and Amy Tan come to mind, as well). Conroy seems obsessed with the idea of a Southern family trying to navigate the high school experiences of a sensitive son and a smartass daughter. Again there is the angry, abusive father and the rather ineffective mother who is mostly concerned about what the neighbors think. Again there are themes of forgiveness and redemption and racial tension. Again someone gets raped. Again the ...more
The story of Bull Meecham, a Marine pilot, and his complex relationships with family and The Corps.

Pat Conroy is an amazing writer. The Houston Chronicle is quoted on the back of my book as saying "Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel," and I don't think I could articulate the experience any better. I laughed until tears ran down my face and in the same chapter I cried for the sheer pain the characters experienced.

The Great Santini is Bull Meecham. And throu
Annie Myers
Of all the Conroys I've read so far, this is my least favorite. The book jacket describes Bull Meacham as someone you should hate but will wind up loving, anyway - but that was not my experience. I found very little loveable about
"The Great Santini". The thing that amazed me was how brave his family was on those occasions when they stood up to him. While I don't doubt he loved his family, and maybe was even proud of them in a way, he was domineering and controlling and sometimes downright cruel
Bob Mayer
I saw the movie before I read the book. Pat Conroy is the master of the low country when it comes to fiction. Like his character in this book, he moved there as a Marine Corps brat and his father was stationed at Marine Air Station Beaufort. I lived on Hilton Head, on the Intracoastal for several years and the ferry to Dafuskie Island passed by every day and I could see the island to the south along the water. Conroy taught on Dafuskie (The Water Is Wide) and people there still remember him as a ...more
Apr 24, 2008 Marguerite rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Brats
I saw the movie before I read the book, and it was the first time I saw my experiences as a military brat played out in a work of fiction. I recognized the shifting family dynamics and the insistence on appearances to the exclusion of all else. I experienced the warrior culture, the comradeship of a family in opposition to the world every time we transfered, too, and moves from one alien environment to another. My dad was no Bull Meecham, but he was a piece of work. Conroy helps me remember.
I enjoyed this unevenly crafted coming of age tale of growing up in the south in the 60's. On one level this is an examination of one family's struggle to love a "hard to love" father who never learned to show the love he so obviously had for his children. On another level, I think that this book is just Pat Conroy's way of making some money off the therapy work he so obviously needed.

In the early chapters its made clear why this maverick fighter pilot is hated but as the story continues, and d
Farnoosh Brock
Pure poetry. I am stunned by the author's powers of description. They say a good writer can describe anything - the most boring, innate object that you are most disinterested in and there were a few of those in this book - and captivate and mesmerize you. Well, Pat Conroy talked about subjects I didn't have a care in. No offense to Mr. Conroy or anyone else, I lived in SC after moving here from Iran via Turkey for one too many years. It was a culture shock on so many levels that it has left a pe ...more
Lawrence Miller
Pat Conroy is a master story teller and one of the best descriptive authors around. His use of words is so good, sometime I find myself reading a passage a couple of times so to savor it. This is the third Conroy book I have read and they all have some very dark elements within the story. But there is much beauty as well, especially in how he relates to the American South.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to meet Pat Conroy and speak with him. He was a speaker at a small marketing conference
I love this book and think it is one of the more hysterical novels I have read, yet everytime I try to explain what is funny about it to people I get weird looks.

I have the feeling, that to enjoy this book to the degree I have, one must have experienced a 'scary' parent. Not necessarily an abusive one, or some sort of criminal, but one that allows their children to grow up in an environment where morbid humor rules all.
Apr 26, 2008 Claudia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all readers
Recommended to Claudia by: Danny
Conroy said his mother told the judge at her divorce hearing that he wouldn't need to call any of the children to testify for her. She gave him a copy of this book and said, 'this is all you need to know.' Santini is bigger than life, fascinating, abusive, mercurial. Santini WAS Conroy's father. Conroy got the last word.

"In war, there ain't no morals. There are just winners, losers, and those that got their asses fried sunny side up."—page 205

Pat Conway's novel, THE GREAT SANTINI, is amazingly well constructed and well written. A very engaging and compelling read.

Protagonist, Marine, Fighter Pilot, Yankee, Irish, Catholic, Bull Meecham, is a character out of time and place, who is hard not to like—and equally hard, or harder, not to dislike. A warrior without a war. A bull in the
Book Concierge
Lt Col Bull Meecham is a Marine fighter pilot – No – he is the GREATEST Marine Fighter Pilot. Just ask his family or any of the men serving under him. This novel gives us a glimpse of one Marine’s family. Lillian is the gentle, Southern-born wife who tempers her husband’s erratic drive with a cool, steady demeanor. She is the buffer between Bull and their children. But as their first-born, Ben, moves toward high school graduation, he is increasingly at odds with his father. No matter how he exce ...more
Great book in my opinion. It is well written, funny, compelling and unfortunately, very close to reality for many military kids. There is a dominant marine father, a beautiful Southern Belle for a wife and 3 smart-ass kids who are constantly trying to appease their father while trying not to be abused by him, mentally and physically. The writing is superb. You could open to the book to any page and find evidence of the outstanding writing. The plot is time driven over the senior year of our hero ...more

I am envious. This is one my favorite authors and I love every single book especially this one. DOn't see the movie, though, it is well acted but not true to the book.


Ellyn Stangarone
Ellyn Stangarone
Ms. Wheeler
Honors English 2
30 August 2009
Book Review
The Great Santini

After reading this book one feels like they actually grew up in a Marine Family. The book The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy, is one of the best books I have ever read. Pat Conroy is the #1 New York Times best selling author. This book shows us the life of children growing up as military brats. The main characters are Bull the marine father, Lillian the mother, Ben the oldest child, Mary Anne the second child, Kar

Reading this book made me realize what kind of Dad I don't want to be. The Great Santini is Bull Beacham, marine pilot, father to four kids, the oldest being Ben. Conroy does a great job illuminating the life of a military family. Maybe this is a typical family at least from that time period, but it is still a compelling read. Bull Meacham is loyal to being a marine fighter pilot first and to his family second. He rules his house like he rules his squadron, his rule is law. Which for him means t ...more
Jul 12, 2011 Margie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Margie by: Mark
Shelves: abandoned, fiction
I gave it the old Air Force try. At about page 33 I told myself that I would read to page 100, just to give it a chance. I literally dropped it about page 70. Just couldn't do any more.

It may have a good story line, as many people obviously enjoy the book. But I just couldn't get past the flat characters, insipid dialogue, and uninspired writing. It's not that I can't handle unlikable characters (cf. Wuthering Heights), it's that I'm not willing to put up with bad writing.

Unfortunately I picked
Rebecca Huston
I was hooked on this one right from the start. Telling the story of The Great Santini, as Lt. Col. Bull Meecham titles himself, this is about a very dysfunctional family in 1960's South Carolina. The prose is rich, the stories varying from troubled to hilarious, and at the center of this maelstrom is the conflict between Bull and his eldest son Ben. The two of the are locked in a father son relationship marked by violence and abuse, but also loyalty and love. This brought back a lot of memories ...more
This is on my second tier of favorite Pat Conroy books. I didn't love it as much as The Water is Wide or Lords of Discipline... but it is nevertheless riveting. I found it especially fascinating that he wrote this about his troubled relationship with his father... while his father was still alive. I've read some other interviews where he talks about how this really helped his relationship with his dad, and as strange as that sounds, he does an impressive job of balancing his frustrations and fur ...more
This is a biased review because the world (not the family dynamic, thank God) in this book is very similar to my own as a spouse of a navy pilot. The writing of this book is engaging and eloquent (when it is not Bull speaking) and I was drawn into the story and wanted to read more. However, the characters (mostly Bull and Lillian) are so very unlikable it is hard to say I liked the book. So how do you rate a well written book in which you didn't love the characters nor the ending (spoiler alert: ...more
This book made me feel so many feelings. Rage, love, sympathy, pride, annoyance, frustration, joy, sadness. And that doesn't even scratch the surface.

The Great Santini, AKA Bull Meecham, is a simple man. He fiercely loves his family and the United States Marine Corps. But unfortunately he's not as successful as a husband and father as he is a fighter pilot. A brutal man, he can have legions of men obeying every order but gentler skills like listening and tenderness completely elude him. Although
Mike Manos
My all time favorite Pat Conroy novel. One of my all time favorite books. A must read for anyone who has been in the military, or has lived in the south in the 20th century. Having been stationed in Charleston when serving in the U.S. Navy in the late 60's and knowing the lay of the land, I enjoyed this book very much.
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The great dysfunctional dad novel. If you like your childhood fucked up and your dad's meaner than spit, read this book. I've always loved it.
At the risk of being shot, being approximately twelve books behind, review forthcoming. "Stand by for a fighter pilot, sports fans."
It's been decades since I saw the Robert Duvall film, but moments from it still terrorize me. I've been intending to read a Pat Conroy novel for just as long, so I grabbed this one when I finally took the plunge.

What I don't remember from the film is how evocative this book is of southern culture, even if it is perhaps a southern culture that doesn't exist anymore. Conroy's book reads almost like a linked collection of short stories, as major plot events occur--Bull beats his family, Ben is a c
Ella Burakowski
The Great Santini was not all that great. After reading Prince of Tides and Lords of Discipline I was looking forward to another of Patrick Conroy's works of art. Alas, this one was a bit of a dud. Fabulous writing and excellent character building, but the story line falls short. There were a number of smaller stories that never really went anywhere towards the full story line. They were all instrumental in building the personalities of each individual character, but did not tie in nicely with t ...more
Laurie Niestrath
Jun 26, 2012 Laurie Niestrath rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Pat Conroy
To select "adult-realistic fiction" as a genre for this book is rather alarming to say the least. I read his memoir, "My Reading Life" as well as listened to him read it prior to reading this book. I knew that he had initially denied any relationship between his real life father and that of Bull Meechum. How interesting that his father selected "The Great Santini" for his license plate-obviously relishing in the attention that a narcissistic individual would enjoy! Bull had a moment or two of ac ...more
This is one of Pat's earliest books and the only one that has been a disappointment to me. I've had this book for a long time, but haven't read it because I knew that "The Great Santini" was Pat's father's nickname and I assumed it would be full of his father's brutality towards him. I don't enjoy reading about people beating other people up, especially parents beating up their children. There is a little of that in this book, but not nearly as much as I expected. Most of it is referenced as hav ...more
My only regret in reading this book is that I didn't read it long ago. In this book I found myself. Like Ben I am a military brat raised my a stern, unyielding man who never apologized and found fault in everything I did. Like Bull, my dad loved me but never settled for anything less then the best and often had a strange way of showing it.

Conroy is an amazing author. That many of his works have made it to film is testament to that. He doesn't describe a scene as much as he paints a picture using
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Pat Conroy is the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Water Is Wide) befo ...more
More about Pat Conroy...
The Prince of Tides Beach Music South of Broad The Lords of Discipline The Water is Wide: A Memoir

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“I’ve never had anyone’s approval, so I’ve learned to live without it.” 92 likes
“Always believe in things and people that bring you pleasure. What good does it do to throw those things out the window?” 1 likes
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