11 Nov 2014

THE THORN BIRDS.


Product DetailsTHE THORN BIRDS by COLLEEN McCULLOUGH.

SOURCE: A re-read off our shelves.

INNER FRONT COVER BLURB: A stormy panorama of passion and grief ... a uniquely moving love story that spans generations ... and a backcloth that stretches from Australia to the Vatican, from New Zealand to London ...

The Thorn Birds begins in 1915 when Paddy Cleary, a poor New Zealand farm labourer, moves his wife and their seven children to Drogheda - the vast Australian sheep station owned by his rich, childless, aging sister. It ends after the Second World War when the only survivor of the third generation - the brilliant actress Justine O'Neill - sets a course of life and love halfway round the world from her roots.

But of all the rich cast of characters, it is Meggie, only daughter among the seven Cleary children, who is the heroine at the heart of the story: Meggie whose passionate, forbidden love for the magnificent priest, Ralph de Bricassart would span more than half a century... 

FIRST SENTENCE {Part One: 1915-1917, Meggie. Chapter One}: On December 8th, 1915, Meggie Cleary had her fourth birthday.


MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 148}: Try as he would, he could not prevent the scorching tide from diffusing up under his skin; Ralph de Bricassart sat with his face turned away behind his hand and writhed through the humiliation of his first blush.

MY THOUGHTS: Still an enjoyable enough read but not nearly as good as I remember it.

A truly epic story that takes us from nineteen fifteen through until the end of World War II, The Thorn Birds is probably the greatest love story that never really was, Meggie and Ralph modern day star-crossed lovers.

Gushingly soppy for someone not renowned for their love of romance stories? Maybe so but I was only fourteen/fifteen at the time and Father Ralph de Bricassart was my first literary crush. Re-reading the book for perhaps the third time since then I felt this to be a sickly quasi-romance, Ralph, far from a dashing cleric who fate/the church had kept from his true love, a pompous man (his one true love actually being himself) who it felt at times almost groomed the young Meggie if not for his sexual gratification than to boost his own ego.

Much more than the story of Meggie and Ralph, the Thorn Birds is also a rich family saga that lays bare the life of the Cleary family over three generations. The depth of the characters combined with a vivid sense of time and place the thing that makes this such a timeless classic.

OK, so its not perfect - some aspects of the story are far more entertaining than others, some of it is repetitive, the author going out of her way to emphasis certain points that really don't need it. And there were certain things too incredulous to be believed (Meggie, raised on a farmstead, having not the vaguest notion of 'the birds and bees'? A Catholic priest explaining menstruation to her?) - but it is hugely compelling. Stu's death by boar one of the funniest death scenes in literature ever (or is that just my perverse sense of humour?)


18 comments:

Kelly said...

I'm glad to hear that, while not as good as you remembered, this re-read was not a disappointment.

I must have read it when I was around the same age as you, maybe in my late teens. While I do remember loving it, I think I preferred her Masters of Rome series I read earlier this year.

I've been waiting for this review since I saw you mention at Yvonne's that you were re-reading it. ;)

Suko said...

Terrific review, Tracy! I'm glad you found this compelling, overall. I am not familiar with this story in any form.

Nancy Klann said...

Hi Tracy,

Saw your review and smiled. Sending you the link to a blog post I wrote about The Thorn Birds.
http://www.nancyklann-moren.com/who-can-forget-their-first-book-crush/

Heather said...

good to read your thoughts on this. I was wondering how this story would hold up after the passing of time.

Brandi Kosiner said...

Sounds like a great read with a good cast of characters

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

Great Review! :)

Now I really want to go back and read this one again, or at least be able to catch a re-run of the television production, so as to fully appreciate watching Richard Chamberlain's portrayal of Ralph de Bricassart, from an adult perspective.

I think I may just have a thing for television priests, as I can always vividly remember my mum watching Peyton Place everyday and me thinking what a dish Rev. Tom Winter was:)

I have to admit that I have never read any more of Colleen McCullough's work since this book, however I may now be tempted into researching some of her later work!

Yvonne.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I think I was in my teens when I read it (and loved it). I don't think I'll read it again though. It's disappointing when they don't hold up. Thanks for telling us about your experience :-)

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

I love your honest review of this book. I read this one a LONG time ago and have been wanting to read it again. Interesting to read your thoughts! Thanks for sharing. :)

Melliane said...

Oh it sounds great and so well done! I love books during this period and I didn't know about this one. Thanks for the review!

Brian Joseph said...

It gets really interesting when one rereads books, especially one's that were favorites when we were young. Some books, like music just become special for us as individuals.

Death scenes can be inadvertently funny. It can be difficult to write them and to avoid this.

Lindsay said...

I kind of fancy trying this one one day but I don't think I would rush to read it. I think I may have watched some of it on television years ago, certainly the name is familiar even though I haven't read it. Glad it was still enjoyable if not as good as you remember it.

Literary Feline said...

It's so interesting how differently we see characters open re-reading books at different times in our lives. I haven't read this one before, but I have at least heard of it.

Sherry Ellis said...

Oh gosh. I couldn't even imagine a Catholic priest explaining menstruation! That's a scary thought!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

It's interesting what we read a long time ago usually doesn't have the same impact on us as we grow in life. The world has also changed a lot since this was written. Interesting review!

Melissa Gill said...

I read that book several times in my teens and early twenties. I loved it. Thanks for reminding me.

Barbara Fisher said...

Hi Tracy, I must have been about the same age as you when I first read this. I thought it was wonderful, but I’m not so sure I would enjoy it as much if I read it again now. Maybe it’s one I should remember rather than read again and not enjoy..

Claudine G. said...

I haven't read this, but oh my God, to have a priest explain menstruation to you ...!

Bo said...

I could never get into this story. I was much more a Dr. Zhivago kind of girl. Mind you, movie, not book. I saw part of The Thornbirds, but I could just never see Richard Chamberlain as a romantic lead. Kind of ruined it for me.