The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy (born October 26, 1945, is an American bestselling author who has written several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into Oscar-nominated films. He is recognized as a leading figure of late-20th century Southern literature (

In The Prince of Tides (1986) Tom Wingo is an¬†unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is¬†having an affair. When he hears that his¬†fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has¬†once again attempted suicide, he¬†flies north to meet her¬†psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein.¬†Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic. Before the suicide attempt she had¬†completely assumed the identity of a dead friend. The implication is that she couldn’t stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a¬† lot of time on her hands) asks Tom to relate the complete back story.¬†We hear of¬†The Family Wingo¬†in swampy Colleton County: a¬† beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father and Tom and Savannah’s much-admired older brother, Luke. The largest of many traumas concerns Luke. He uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a¬†nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It’s¬†his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his¬†job, and Savannah, almost, her life. This is writing filled with the vanishing beauty of the South Carolina low country as well as the dusty glitter of New York City. It offers a vivid world of colourful, eccentric and¬†memorable characters.

It’s fair to say this expansive novel demands time, and¬†divides opinion. Should you wish to give it a try enquire at your local library or consult¬† for full bibliographic detail.

The novel was brought to the screen in 1991 by Barbra Streisand. Nick Nolte plays Tom Wingo and Streisand herself plays the psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein. (

Available on DVD at

672 pages in Black Swan

First published 1986

ISBN 978-0552773584

Pat Conroy

Scroll to Top