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The Thorn Birds by by Colleen McCullough
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The Thorn Birds (original 1977; edition 1982)

by by Colleen McCullough

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,314106828 (4)181
Member:sofiemol
Title:The Thorn Birds
Authors:by Colleen McCullough
Info:Avon books (1982), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977)

  1. 10
    Roses by Leila Meacham (miriamparker)
    miriamparker: ROSES, like THE THORNBIRDS, is an epic family saga that you won't be able to put down.
  2. 11
    Random Winds by Belva Plain (shesinplainview)
  3. 00
    Emmeline by Judith Rossner (shesinplainview)
  4. 11
    The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan (Fliss88)
  5. 00
    The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (espertus)
    espertus: Another well-written historical romance
  6. 22
    The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller (shesinplainview)
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» See also 181 mentions

English (100)  German (3)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (105)
Showing 1-5 of 100 (next | show all)
In this timeless saga of family secrets and lost love in rural Australia, young Meggie's family is summoned by her aunt to take over the running of a prosperous sheep farm in the Australian outback. It seems like a sweet deal, but no one is prepared for the effects of drought, the church, family secrets, war, wealth and forbidden love.

My first read-through was probably in my mid-teens (a copy stealthily "borrowed" from my mother's nightstand), when I was absolutely entranced and couldn't get enough. While I would now rate it four rather than five stars and didn't find the romantic relationships quite as compelling (one in particular actually now seems borderline creepy), I still love The Thorn Birds for its sheer depth of story. Never tempt fate. ( )
  ryner | Jul 18, 2016 |

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

Apparently this is another highly-regarded book I don't get the appeal of. I'd been excited to read this for awhile, and when I started it, my mother told me my aunt loved the movie. Not knowing the story, I had high hopes.

This is basically what happened when I read The Thorn Birds:

First 10 pages - Strange family, love the writing style, awesome.
First sixty pages - Interesting conflicts between characters who stand out, I'm intrigued
First 150-200 pages - Hard lives, brutal times. I'm hoping something new will happen soon....where's the next plot point?? I'll pick up again later.
Another hundred pages - Oh, no! Sad moment. Otherwise...Dare I say I'm getting bored? Need patience, need patience
Another hundred pages - Still boring and I'm reading it slow. I hope there's some big point to all this eventually. It's dragging.
Another hundred pages - I'm starting to feel like this will never end. Something mildly interesting happens, then we have to hear about it for fifty pages, dragged out and little emotion.
Another hundred pages - really, that's it? I hate these people.

Basically it starts okay, but the ultimate "plot" is through the lives of bitter people who never reach for happiness or more than the hands life deals them with. They're miserable, they know they'll never be happy, they accept it and drift through the pages and events with no emotion. The end just shows the same thing - life sucks, then you die. You love sons more than daughters. It's inevitable to fall in love and have it destroy the life in you, oh well. Eventually you don't care about anyone anymore. Oh well. There's the land, but it doesn't matter in the end either, oh well.

I don't even get the "romance." It felt flimsy to me at times, frustrating at others. My favorite character was probably Paddy and Frank, but any charm with them is wiped away early to pave way for robots.

I didn't need to read almost 700 pages of that. So little happened in these pages after the first 200 or so. At the end I kind of ended up hating the characters anyway and couldn't wait to say goodbye.

This will be another time I'm in the unpopular group, but oh well - life apparently sucks, especially if you have the lives these characters do.

( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
The Thorn Birds starts off excellently, detailing the day-to-day life of a family struggling to get by in early twentieth century New Zealand. It's well-written, it feels very realistic, and there's a strong sense of place. There's believable conflict among the family members without any of them being unsympathetic. There's an interesting and unflinching look at the effects of strict gender roles on average women's lives: something we don't see in most historical fiction, which tends to feature the elite rather than regular folks. When the family picks up and moves to Australia, I was still enthralled. I loved the descriptions of life in the Outback and was drawn into the family's story. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
The Greatest Romance Novel of All Time.
I have read this at least a dozen times, and still love Meggie, Ralph, Fee, Paddy & Frank. A classic, cannot recommend it highly enough. ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
Although it is romantic fiction, The Thorn Birds is also an unusually intelligent meditation on love, fate and God. The book asks us to consider how much of life is the the result of the choices we've made, and how much of it is determined long before we are born. Something inborn (instinct?) compels McCullough's legendary birds to impale themselves upon the longest, sharpest thorns that they can find. But when we do the same, "we know, we understand, and still we do it." Indeed we do, but that doesn't stop Meggie from wrestling with God on the question, or for blaming him for many of her misfortunes. By the novel's end, Meggie concludes that she essentially lived the life she chose, much as Ralph did. She is able to make her peace with God. The same can't be said for Ralph, who has used God as instrument of his ambition.
What's also interesting is the way that history repeats itself in the book. Like her mother, Meggie marries a man she doesn't love, bears a child by the man she does love, redirects her love for the father to the child, selfishly ignores her other child, and then -- as if by punishment -- loses the beloved child to a tragic and untimely death. Fate? Bad luck? Or the seeds of dysfunction passing from one generation to the next? The Thorn Birds uses the conventions of romance to as some pretty compelling questions. There's a lot more here than meets the eye. ( )
  SusanReach | Mar 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 100 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCullough, Colleenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Binchy, MaeveIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christiansen, IbTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lagerström, BertilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain. ... Or so says the legend.
Dedication
for 'big sister' Jean Easthope
First words
On December 8th, 1915, Meggie Cleary had her fourth birthday.
Quotations
"If she was capable of it, surely once or twice her guard would have slipped; surely once or twice she would have experienced a pang of something more than tolerant affection for her infrequent lovers. It didn't occur to her that she deliberately chose lovers who would never threaten her self-imposed detachment, so much a part of herself by now that she regarded it as completely natural."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
VIRAGO EDITION:
Sometimes when he didn't know he was being watched Meggie would look at him and try desperately to imprint his face upon her brain's core...And he would turn to find her watching him, a look in his eyes of haunted grief, a doomed look. She understood the implicit message, or thought she did; he must go back to the Church and his duties. Never again with the same spirit, perhaps, but more able to serve. For only those who have slipped and fallen know the vicissitudes of the way...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0380018179, Paperback)

Now, 25 years after it first took the world by storm, Colleen McCullough's sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback returns to enthrall a new generation. As powerful, moving, and unforgettable as when it originally appeared, it remains a monumental literary achievement—a landmark novel to be read . . . and read again!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:17 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The epic story of a priest torn between God and human passion and a beautiful girl desiring only what she cannot have, spanning five decades of ambition, fear, longing and revenge, and set against the vast horizons of Australia's Outback.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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