The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – Book Review

The Thorn BirdsImage via Wikipedia

Rating: 4.75/5
Source : Reliance Timeout
Year of Release : 1977


The Thorn Birds is the story of 3 generations of the Cleary Family and mainly of Meghann “Meggie” Cleary. Meghann is the only daughter of Paddy and Fee Cleary, an Irish family living in New Zealand. The Cleary family is poor and find it very hard to meet both ends meet. Things brighten up when Paddy’s sister Mary Carson living in Australia sends a letter to Paddy asking him to come to Australia and look after her enormous estate Drogheda in the Outback. Paddy and his children will inherit Drogheda from Mary Carson.

In Drogheda, the Clearys come across Father Ralph de Bricassart who is the local Catholic priest. Fr Ralph seems to be very influential with Mary Carson and very soon becomes a part of the Drogheda life. Fr Ralph develops an affection towards Meggie from the first day he met her and always looks out for the ten year old child. Things turn upside down for Clearys after Mary Carson’s death when they realise that Mary has changed her will before her death. By her latest will, Clearys will not inherit Drogheda though they can continue to live off it.

The rest of the story is about life in Drogheda and the lives of Meggie and Father Ralph whose affection towards Meggie has grown to be more than childish love. Father Ralph is determined to keep his vows of chastity at any cost and is tormented by his love for Meggie.

While the story progresses, Father Ralph moves up the ladder and becomes an influential person in Vatican. Meggie gets married to Luke who looks similar to Fr Ralph, but later she painfully finds out that their similarities end with their looks. Meggie gets a daughter with Luke. Meanwhile Fr Ralph comes looking out for Meggie and Ralph breaks his Catholic vows. When Meggie realizes that she is pregnant with Ralph’s child, she seeks out Luke to make it look like his baby. In a short while Meggie returns to Drogheda forever, gives birth to a son and raises him as Luke’s son. Father Ralph also doesn’t realize the truth even when the truth was right infront of his eyes and he is made to pay a huge price his ignorance.

My Thoughts

I believe it is very difficult to write the plot of a book without giving away much of the story…I am often confused as to how much should I tell the reader so that he can be induced into reading the book, but without divulging much of the details.

The Thorn Birds has been called the “Gone with the Wind” of Australia. I believe this comparison is not at all wrong. Infact I enjoyed The Thorn Birds more than Gone with the Wind. I could relate to Meggie more than Scarlett O’Hara.

The Thorn Birds is an awesome combination of all the necessary ingredients for a great book – love, compassion, religion, hatred etc. Colleen McCullough should be appreciated for the hard work she has put to research and lay down the background of this book.

The involvement of a Catholic priest in a relationship and his obsession towards a girl from childhood looked very real but made it a bit uncomfortable to read. I felt that the author’s idea about the Catholic vows taken by priests were quite one-sided.

To conclude , I loved reading each and every page of this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed reading Gone with the Wind. Anyway I believe it is one of the best books written.

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2 thoughts on “The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Best Books That I Have Ever Read [UBC – Day 23] | My Blog

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