The Thorn Birds

As World War I sputters to its end, the Paddy Cleary’s childless older sister offers to turn her sheep station, Drogheda, over to him and his family on her death if he’ll come run it.

The Thorn Birds cover shows house, bare tree, sky, nothing else.
Barren landscape of The Thorn Birds

The Cleary family leaves the green intimacy of New Zealand for brown horizons of the Outback.

Life is hard, but even young Meggie accepts that as normal.

Four of the five Cleary boys love Drogheda; only Frank, the eldest and his mother’s favorite, hates it. He goes off to be a boxer.

The handsome priest who serves the parish is eyed lecherously by Paddy’s sister.

Determined if she can’t have Ralph de Bricassart God won’t either, she writes a new will, leaving Paddy’ s family Drogheda and its income for their lifetime, but giving the bulk of her vast wealth to the Church.

Meggie gets away from Drogheda long enough to marry a man by whom she has one child and to have an affair with Ralph, now attached to the Vatican.

The Thorn Birds is not a pretty story, but Colleen McCullough doesn’t wallow in the dirt.

Her characters make mistakes, takes their lumps, learn their lessons, move on.

And the novel’s worth reading just for McCullough’s Australian landscapes.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
Harper & Row, 1977. 533 p.
1977 bestseller #2. My grade: B

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni