Kambin Pillay's Reviews > The Thorn Birds

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
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Mar 26, 2009

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Recommended to Kambin by: People who were considerably older than me
Recommended for: lovers of good old fashioned romance
Read in June, 1983 , read count: 2

This book was doing the rounds amongst my older cousins in about 1983 when I was about 11 years old. I read it at that point and then later watched the tv series starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward when it hit South African screens about a year or so later. I reread the book when I was in my 20's. I decided to put down a few words about it on a whim as I came across the book while browsing the site. Please bear in mind that I last read this book over a decade ago.

While the thought of a celebate Catholic priest loving a woman and fathering a child with her was considered scandalous at the time, recent admissions from factions within the Catholic Church have lessened the degree of shock somewhat. Indeed there are those of Catholic upbringing who might be forgiven for whimsically thinkiing "If only...". I for one, who experienced Catholicism first hand for 8 years at a school founded and run by Brothers, if forced to, would certainly have chosen a scandal about sex between consenting adults than one in which it emerges that randy priests have preyed on children for many years.

That said, the book is well written and presents an interesting study in a subject seldom tackled in fiction, viz. the political machinations engineered by an attractive man to woo favour from a wealthy woman - favour which he was able to use to get to the very top of his industry.

Froma technical perspective, there were some questions left unanswered. For example, what did Fr. Ralph do to get him transferred to the town where Meggie's childhood is set; or, did he consciously engineer his relationship with Mary Carson.

Of course these could have been strategic oversights to enable a sequel (Thorn Birds - the Missing Years?), or perhaps a desire to leave some questions unanswered to force the reader to think about the book. Perhaps the latter is so, as many years later, I still seem to have remembered enough of this book to be able to write about it without having to read other reveiews or google names or places.

People have referred to The Thorn Birds as one of the greatest love stories of the modern era, while others have pointed out its paedophilic undertones and portrayal of child seduction. Yes, sometimes people can get a bit too deep.

I suggest that you give it a read - even an atheist will find some joy in Meggie's anger with God - and judge for yourself. Writing about it has made me nostalgic so I'm going to go home and fish out my old dog eared copy. I may amend this review after this 3rd reading.
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Kara Yi Your answers were both answered within the book: Father Ralph insulted a bishop which exiled him to the place where Meggie grew up, and he very consciously did engineer his relationship with Mrs. Carson because he wanted her money to help him out of exile.


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