The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough | Book Review

The Thorn Birds book cover

My copy of The Thorn Birds used to belong to my grandparents. It’s a hardback and missing its dust jacket, and other than the title and the author’s name printed on the spine, I knew absolutely nothing about it before reading it – not the blurb, not the genre, not a single thing. I’d never heard of it before. It was an unknown adventure in reading.

If I’d have looked the book up on Goodreads before I delved into it, I probably would never have started it. Apparently, The Thorn Birds is a sweeping romance novel that documents the lives of an Australian family over the course of three generations. Meh, boring – that doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all. But oh, how wrong I was. I loved it!

This book is a soap opera. It’s got family feuds, long-hidden secrets, dreamy romance, saucy sex scenes, gruesome deaths, the horrors of war, natural disasters, handsome priests, beautiful women, and plenty of scandal.

It is brutal. Colleen McCullough sure likes to kill her characters with reckless abandon. It’s harrowing to the point that it’s almost infuriating. Poor Meggie, our heroine, has so much shit thrown at her that I wonder how she managed to get through it all.

Sure, there’s some waffling passages about the rural Australian setting that, while beautiful, become a little repetitive. Yes, there are times when you want to reach into the page and throttle the characters for being so bloody stupid. Naturally, there are some cliche moments and some predictable moments and some completely unbelievable moments. But this is a novel about ‘real’ lives pushed to the extreme. It’s all about the drama – these elements are par for the course and in the context they absolutely work.

The novel sucked me straight into the heart of the Cleary family as they try to make their way through life with the world completely destroying them. I even shed a couple of tears in one place, and I felt genuinely sad when I finished the last page. I didn’t want want the emotional rollercoaster to end.

I now have a newfound hankering for similarly epic family sagas. Who’d have thought it?

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6 thoughts on “The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough | Book Review

  1. There was a TV series of the Thorn Birds – way back in the 1980s – I remember watching with my room-mate at Uni – we loved it. (Now that dates me!).

    1. Since finishing the book I’ve seen there was a TV show, I think I’d quite like to track it down on DVD! As I was reading I thought it would make a great show or movie.

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