: The thorn birds (9780380018178) : Colleen Mccullough : Books

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      The Thorn Birds

      by Colleen Mccullough
      Our price: LBP 43,800 / $ 29.20Unavailable
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      Product Details

      • Publisher: Avon
      • Publishing date: 01/06/1979
      • Language: English
      • ISBN-13: 9780380018178
      • ISBN: 0380018179


      Now, 25 years after it first took the world by storm, Colleen McCullough's sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback returns to enthrall a new generation. As powerful, moving, and unforgettable as when it originally appeared, it remains a monumental literary achievement—a landmark novel to be read . . . and read again!

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      • The Thorn Birds: A Tragic and Flawed Novel
        From Amazon

        Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds is one of the most popular books written in recent years, but it is not a great book, a classic novel. The Guardian called it, "Australia's answer to Gone With the Wind," and it certainly has the epic sweep of that book and, in Meggie Cleary, a character to rival Scarlett O'Hara in iron-willed determination and love for the land. It is a book much like Thackery's Vanity Fair, a "book without a hero," and while Meggie bears some resemblance to Becky Sharp, she falls far short of the scheming self-interest of the latter character.

        There are two things that keep The Thorn Birds from being a great book. The first is that it lacks the dramatic conclusion of great drama. The Hunchback of Norte Dame ends with Quasimodo seeing the two great loves of his life die within moments, one by his own hand. The place where the climax should have come to an end is at the point when Ralph, now Cardinal di Bricassart, comes to Drogheda and meets Dane. Fee and Meggie know the truth but will not tell him. McCullough teases us by saying that Anne and Luddie, the only two other people who know it, are coming to Drogheda as well. But what happens? Meggie and Cardinal Ralph nonchalantly go to bed together and the moment passes and the story moves on. Other scenes vie for this place in the book without much success.

        The Thorn Birds is, at bottom, a book for women. Its central themes of love, forbidden and otherwise, and psychological self-analysis resonate with them. McCullough draws her women--Fee, Meggie, and Justine--with a clear and sharp brush. Her best character is the villainess, Mary Carson, whose decisions shape the book and whose ghost haunts it throughout. While perhaps not on a par with Dickens' Madame Defarge, she exudes evil; even her death is grotesque. McCullough's men, by comparison are mere representations: The perfect priest, the Australian sheep grazier, Frank, the angry young man, the brothers, as alike as peas in a pod, Paddy, the accepting father, Luke, the rough, ambitious personification of Gordon Gekko, and Dane, the perfect embodiment of male beauty. Even Cardinal Vittorio Scarbanza di Conti-Verchese is a mere stereotype of the kind of cardinal that controlled the Catholic Church in those days. We see him throughout the book stroking his various cats, as a benign Goldfinger. And then there is Ralph, of course, the combination of perfect man and perfect priest.

        This is a book about suffering and death and religion. Rather than compare it to Gone with the Wind, a more fitting comparison would be to the bible, specifically the Old Testament. The God of Colleen McCullough is clearly God the Father, an avenging God who punishes and kills relentlessly--who tortures Job much as a small boy would pull the legs off a frog to see what happens. The fire matches the biblical flood, as does the killing of animals--sheep by the tens of thousands and rabbits by the millions. Why does McCullough have to kill the bunnies? Maybe it is a bit of realism, that in post WW II Australia the rabbit population was wiped out by myxomatosis, but is it really necessary to include this particular fact in the book? The human death toll in the book is what grieves us the most. The deaths far exceed the births and of the five births in the Cleary family, two die, one is maimed for life, one is psychologically warped and only one (Jims) has anything like a normal life. Of the two marriages, one is a disaster that ends in a de facto divorce and the other, at the end of the book, is McCullough's lame attempt at a happy ending. None of the Cleary boys get married--because they are shy around girls, or more likely because they have some sense of the fate that marriage would have in store for them..

        But what utterly destroys the book is the death that occurs towards the end. It is stupid and senseless and comes upon us suddenly, like the deaths of the children in Jude the Obscure, who hang themselves, leaving behind the pathetic note, "We are too many." But Hardy paid for the unrelenting negativism in his novels (poor Tess!), and was so pilloried that he turned to poetry in his latter years. When we first read it we are stunned. It can't be; there must be some mistake. We go back and read the passage again. No, there is no mistake. We cry out in horror: WHY, COLLEEN, WHY THIS?! WHY NOT BOB OR JIMS OR FEE WHO WOULD WELCOME DEATH. WHY MUST IT BE THIS?? And them we calm down. It's only a novel. It isn't real. It is all imaginary. And we go on to finish the book.

        The second limiting factor in the book is the meandering plot. McCullough does not seem to know where she is going with this book. Reading it is like wandering through a maze. Down one path--nope, better find another. For example, the book begins with the conflict between Fee, her son Frank and her husband Paddy. The hot-tempered Frank is unlike the other Cleary boys and we soon learn why. But where does this plot line go? Frank leaves to become a boxer and the next thing we know McCullough has him in prison for 30 years! When he does come back to Dongheha he is but a shell of his former self and spends his time puttering in the garden. Then the book seems to be about Fee and Paddy, but that line fizzles out too.

        The one central unifying theme is the relationship between Meggie and Father Ralph. But instead of high tragedy, McCullough gives us a resigned Meggie and a Ralph who pines away even as he climbs the ladder of Catholic success.

        In fairness to McCullough, it is not as though she doesn't warn us. The title, is taken from a bird that impales itself on a thorn and sings until it dies. This is life for Mcullough, to paraphrase Hobbes, "Nasty, Long and Brutish." But we have been warned and after all one does not read Shakesepeare's tragedies expecting a happy ending.

        Finally, the book ends without hope. In Gone With the Wind (the movie anyway) we find Scarlett holding the land between her fingers, looking upward and uttering the words, "Tomorrow is another day.." But McCullough gives us no such hope. In the end Drogheda will be no more and we find Meggie resigned to this fate.

        Does all of this mean that the book is not worth reading? Of course not. It is, to use a trite expression, "a damn good read." Women will love it; men will at least enjoy parts of it. It presents aspects of life--New Zealand, the Australian outback, the inner chambers of the Holy See--that none of us are likely to experience. Read it. Enjoy it as best you can. But realize before you do that you are about to descend in something akin to Dante's Inferno--and don't compare it to War and Peace.

      • A Very Enjoyable Read from Down Under!
        From Amazon

        Read this book several years ago and enjoyed it immensly. A young woman falls in love with a kindly young priest and gradually gets him to fall in love with her. This book may raise a few eyebrows today with what has been going on in the church.

      • Long and wonderful
        From Amazon

        This is a wonderful book, although very long. Some of the descriptions are tedious and you look forward to more dialoge or action. Overall, a very beautiful tale.

      • Fascinating Story
        From Amazon

        Yes, the story between meggie and Ralph (a Catholic priest) is fascinating and intriguing. It is also quite moving and tearful. Unfortunately, I found the book full of meanderings, psycho-babbles, ruminations, and lengthy, tedious descriptions of persons and places. These definitely reduced my interest and absorption in the fine story. Actually, they cluttered it, forcing me to skim and skip.

        The almost 700 pages would have been fine at 400-450. And the author's inability to write suspensefully and provoke my curiosity bothered me immensely. When the novel ended, all I could say was whewww! Finally! By then I had actually become very bored, especially since that part became a new story about Meggie's kids, which had little relationship to the main theme of the book. Had Meggie not had any children, I think the book would have been much better, cleaner.

        I found The TV mini-series FAR SUPERIOR--it was tightly written, perfectly focused, devoid of clutter and babble, and full of tension, suspense, and touching scenes. DO SEE THE MINI-SERIES--you will not waste a moment, as you will through many of the book's plodding, sometimes unclear pages.

      • Profound novel. The best I've ever read.
        From Amazon

        If I could give this book 10 stars I would. From the first page I was drawn into the Cleary family's world...into their colorful lives and the journey through their truimph and pain that spans a lifetime. This is a superb novel that centers around Meggie Cleary, a girl only but 7 years old at the start of the saga. Born into a poor Irish family of sheep shearers in the beautiful land of New Zealand, Meggie learns quickly that she must look after herself. From the time Meggie was a small child she was wise beyond her years. Having to hold her own against a family of all boys, save her mother Fee, who is but a shell of her former self. Fee being too busy with chores and duties, had no time to give love or affection to any of her children, except Frank...because he was different, he didn't resemble the Cleary's, he didn't behave as a Cleary. Meggie's oldest brother Frank was the only one who showed little Meggie any affection and she clung to him as if he were the only person who ever really loved her.

        Fast forward 3 years....The Cleary's recieved a letter from their wicked, wealthy Aunt Mary Carson asking them to come to her home in Austrailia and learn how to tend her sheep and work her vast farm. Mary knew she was growing old and wanted the land and Drogedha, her home, to remain in the family once she died. So they left, with the promise of prosperity and a new future. Arriving after a trying journey by land and sea, they were met at the train station by priest Father Ralph De Bricassart, Mary's trusted confidant and friend.

        From the moment Father Ralph and Meggie met they were both in awe of eachother. She being only 10, he being a man of 28. They shared a spiritual bond that neither could ignore from the beginning. He thought she was the most beautiful little girl he'd ever seen. She thought he closely resembled God because of his magnificant beauty and charm. He took Meggie under his protective wing and showed her an affection she had never known. She looked to him as a father, he to her as a daughter, but it was much more...

        This is a tale of forbidden love, a love that cannot be consumated or entertained, but also can't be smothered and ignored. It is a love of two souls who are so entertwined it squeezes the heart with longing and desperation. Beyond their control, they fight their feelings and sometimes succomb to them over the period of their lives. Throughout this sweeping saga through generations of Cleary's, life lessons are learned the hard way and passed down to the next generations to learn all over again.

        This book takes you on a long, winding road throughout time and the difficulties of the heart. It isn't just a romance, it is much more and any fan of great literature would appriciate this book. I recommend it highly.

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