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“When we press the thorn to our chest, we know, we understand, and still we do it” – Colleen McCullough.

This beautifully written story mostly takes place on a fictional sheep station on Drogheda in the Australian Outback named after the town Drogheda, located in Dublin, Ireland. The story focuses on the Cleary family and their gut-wrenching experiences spanning 54 years – 1915-1969.  “The Thorn Birds” is a 1977 best-selling novel by Australian author Colleen McCullough, and it captivates you like no other. The way it holds onto your attention as you rapidly go through the pages in the angst of wonder and worry is an experience you have to live through to understand what “life” is.

Following the journey of several characters, The Thorn Book begins with a toy doll owned by a little girl, Meggie, who is the central character of this story. She is the lone daughter in a large family of sons, and she is described as an innocent little blonde girl with a captivating appearance, so captivating that not even a priest – Father Ralph de Brisscart can resist having thought about having a future with her. They meet when she is a young girl, and as she blossoms into a growing woman with irresistible beauty, her provoking desires come along with her, as they both try to make the best out of a life flawed by scandal, heartbreak, and tragedy.

A quote about Colleen McCullough's characters.

Image Credit: azquotes.com

Meggie witnesses her brother strip, break, and embarrass her beloved doll right in front of her eyes, making her experience devastating pain. This foreshadows what’s to come for little Meggie because of her choices and words, which come back to haunt her.

The intricate plot lines of such a wide range of characters and how they all have an influence on each other’s life is something everyone can relate to. The “butterfly effect” or the “domino” effect is in full throttle in this novel. Meggie’s mother’s actions and words have a glaring impact on her, which influences Meggie’s children and their decisions. This book touches upon all the relevant subjects humans have to endure; The struggles of immigration, loneliness, the temporary joy, the difficulty to control who you fall in love with and abstaining from physical pleasure, parenthood, and the list goes on.

Meggie and Father Ralph in The Thorn Birds miniseries.

Image Credit: tvinsider.com

Another piece of artistry in this book is the detail in which each setting is written so effortlessly by the author. The words on the page become more than that, they become the pictures in your head as you easily envision each and everything the author portrays. It makes the reader feel as if they are in the story in flesh, witnessing the events unfold as bystanders. From the temperature of the wind to the direction it blows in, the texture and colour of the grass, the smell of the air, it has it all. You tend to indulge in the book like a person on a diet who is finally able to eat what they want, and once you start, you can’t stop.

If words aren’t enough, there is an American miniseries that broadcasted in 1983 on the exact same novel. It ended up becoming the United States’ second-highest rated mini-series. The ideal thing to do is to read the novel, and then witness it in the form of television to experience the story in all of its glory. 

Published by: HOLR Magazine.