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The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough Read Online (FREE)

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Read The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough full novel online for free here.

Introduction

 

It’s astonishing to think that it is now thirty years since The Thorn Birds first erupted into our lives. It was one of those publishing phenomena right from the start: a huge international bestseller that everyone was talking about and everyone had an opinion of – it is still a favourite even today. And when the television series appeared in 1983, we all held our breath as Father Ralph and Meggie made love for the first time.

When we first read The Thorn Birds it was a totally unfamiliar scene: most of us had not known about the poverty and the hard work of those who tried to make a new life in the Southern Hemisphere early in the twentieth century. Unless we had actually been to Australia, and far fewer people had back then, we had no idea of the sheer size and beauty of that huge empty land.

But there is something mesmerising about the descriptions of the hibiscus and bougainvillaea tumbling down the walls of old buildings. The sturdy bottle trees standing erect, and the ghost gums in the distance. The heat and the drought that can cripple a community; the torrents of rain that fall without ceasing in the wet season. And for three decades, The Thorn Birds has hypnotised readers who have never been remotely near Australia into feeling that Drogheda is just down the road. Those who have read the book probably know the sprawling sheep station at Drogheda better than they do any country house in their own part of the world; and if they do, it’s entirely because of the people who live there, who visit or who run away.

They will always stay in your mind, the Cleary family, who made the huge – and in those days very difficult – journey from New Zealand to Australia to live and work on their wealthy relative’s ranch. The book opens on the fourth birthday of little Meggie Cleary, and follows the many adventures that her life holds in store. It’s beautiful, the Australian landscape where Meggie settles as a young woman, but it’s neither a gentle nor an easy life. With brothers, but no sisters, and a somewhat withdrawn mother, Meggie has to make her own way and find out about life on her own. There are men around, of course, plenty of men, but no maps for Meggie in this uncharted territory.

And then she finds her first real friend, confidant, adviser and love. This is all wrapped up in the person of one man, a man who, in spite of his good intentions for her, will spoil her for all other men and make them seem inferior by comparison.

Although this novel was written thirty years ago, it is a story about a Catholic middle class almost fifty years before that. So when the novel was set, the love of a girl for a celibate Catholic priest would have been so forbidden as to be fantastical. If it were talked about, thought about at all, it would have been at best as a silly crush that would undoubtedly fade away before anyone got hurt. That either one of them should act on their passion was unthinkable – a girl who would wilfully distract one of God’s chosen vessels from the path of righteousness? A priest who would give in to temptation and break his vows? There were no words strong enough to describe their folly and their sin.