In The Thorn Birds, a perfectly crafted romantic story, is a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of the Cleary family’s challenges as they battle through life .The author takes us on a journey through their unpretentious roots in New Zealand, where they worked as sheep-shearers, to the huge Australian sheep farm, Drogheda owned by Paddy’s elderly aunt Mary Carson.

Colleen McCullough begins her novel with the legend of the thorn bird – a bird that spends all its life searching for a thorn bush, and selecting the longest and sharpest thorn, the bird impales itself on the thorn. While doing so, it rises above its agony to out-sing the nightingale and the lark. A song, so exquisite that the whole world stills to listen and even God in Heaven smiles. The entire novel revolves round this simple truth that the best is bought at the cost of great pain.

The novel is aptly titled, as the pain and the sacrifice of the bird is likened to that of the protagonists. They sacrifice everything for true love .The author talks about sublime love, which makes no demands except love in return. She talks about platonic love that remains warm, cherished and unimpaired. Like the thorn bird the protagonists keeps forfeiting everything for love- a love so great that mere thoughts of each other suffice.

Set in the early twentieth century, when family values were rather strong, the author beautifully chapters the book around the lives of each of the central characters. Colleen McCullough takes us on a magical journey through three generations of love and longing for each other, from Paddy Cleary and his wife Fiona to their sons and only daughter Meggie and the Catholic priest Ralph De Bricassant, to Meggie’s children- actress Justine and priest Dane.

The Thorn Birds has a flowing story in which characters come to life with vibrant, yet simple language. Though the novel is concerned with almost all the Cleary family, it mainly dwells on Meggie and her relationship with her parents, brothers, Fr Ralph and her children. Colleen McCullough transports her readers to the times and places where Ralph and Meggie lived. She deals with many believable, real life human issues.

In a thrilling and descriptive style, the author transports us from the dry dusk, heat and fires of the Australian Outback, to the relentless forces of nature and the power-ridden Vatican. The element of love and pain has been most sensitively dealt with. Fiona, who suffered disappointments in love, realized too late, after Paddy’s death, that she loved him dearly. She also lost the only child she loved more than the others. History repeats itself when her daughter, Meggie is allured by Luke O’Neill and marries him. She realizes too late, that the man she truly wants was Fr Ralph De Bricassant. Fr Ralph is beyond her reach and had chosen God over her. Meggie deals with the same pain and love that Fiona had to face in her relationship with her children.

The novel is remarkably interesting. However, in this compelling book I felt pockets of disinterest in character development. While the central characters Frank, Meggie, Fr Ralph, Justine and Dane were fantastically portrayed, the others do not really come to life.

In my opinion, this novel is a Must Read for those in love – it makes them realize that love is all about sharing, giving and sacrificing.

It is a Must Read for those not in love – Man you are really missing something wonderful out there!!!


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