The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
A beautiful, hauntingly sad tale demonstrates the endurance of hard truths through stunning scenery, unforgettable characters, and beautiful writing.
The Thorn Birds follows three generations of the Cleary family. When the book opens, the family is destitute and living in New Zealand. The mother, Fiona, was from a higher class and was married off to Paddy after she became pregnant from an affair with a politician. She favors her one child from the affair over her many other legitimate children. Paddy’s rich older sister moves them to Australia to work her large ranch. Meggie, their only daughter, immediately becomes attached to Father Ralph, who favors her. Father Ralph is an ambitious priest hoping to one day to be at the Vatican. Meanwhile, Meggie’s family endures hardships from the land – drought, fire, rain, dust – and struggles among themselves with father son and mother daughter tensions. When Meggie is older, Ralph’s feelings for her become a passion he cannot control. This passion is his one struggle, for he cannot love her and be a priest. Rejected by Father Ralph, Meggie marries Luke, who only loves his work and his money. The family saga follows the Cleary family through war, forbidden love and tragic death to the third generation, where Meggie’s daughter Justine struggles to find a life for herself outside of Australia.
Despite the promise of sorrow in the opening words, The Thorn Birds enticing storytelling makes it impossible to put down.