Book Review

Book Review – “The Thorn Birds”

the thorn birds


This is the story of the Cleary family spread over 60 years or so from the early 20th Century. The story centres on Meggie in the main part and we are first introduced to them when it is her fourth birthday on their farmstead in New Zealand. The story moves to the Outback in Australia and as the book unfolds we see how the family fares as the generations grow.

Where is it set?

It is set mainly on the farming station of “Drogheda”, which is in New South Wales in Australia but some action also takes place in London, Rome, Crete and Sydney.

Who are the main characters?

The main Cleary family members are Paddy and Fee (parents) and their offspring – Frank, Bob, Hughie, Stuart, Patsy, Jims, Meggie and Hal – but also central to the story is Father Ralph de Bricassart. Later on in the story we meet Meggie’s children and some other friends who join their journey in places.

My overall impression?

The main theme of the book was that love is a sweet poison and to love means to lose, and to lose painfully with great sorrow.

I loved watching this when it was on TV in the early 1980s when I was a young and impressionable pre-teen. I fell in love with Richard Chamberlain as Father Ralph and was hoping that by reading the book I would recapture some of that romance and sense of being taken away into a realm of fantasy now I’m just about pre-menopausal.

For the main part the book did satisfy that part of my yearning, but I thought that from about two-thirds of the way through it could have – and should have – ended at any point. I’m not doubting the quality of the writing, but once the focus of the story was on Justine and not Meggie I thought the book was derailed slightly. Apart from one more dramatic scene towards the end (I won’t spoil it for you) Meggie falls out of the main picture of the book which I thought was a shame. She is such a strong character she deserved to be more present in the last third of it, as should Ralph have been and I thought by leaving those two out of it was very unsatisfying.

It struck me that there was more depth to be achieved to Justine and Dane’s story if it had been written as a sequel. By trying to squash it into a third of a book it came across as shallow and a bit rushed.

I did enjoy reading the story but I thought it was perhaps overlong and the point of it could have been made much more succinctly and a bit more dramatically without so many pages.

Will I read the next in the series?

This isn’t a book in a series – although maybe the different stages of the story should have been written as a series and had justice done to them properly – but I will certainly be reading more by the same author.

Would I recommend it to my friends?

I think it’s more of a female story than one for men because it is all about relationships and emotional ties rather than a cut and thrust action thriller, so unless you are a particularly emotionally mature man then I wouldn’t recommend it to you. If, ladies, you’re like me and love epic stories then this is one for you.



7 thoughts on “Book Review – “The Thorn Birds””

  1. Thanks, Pam, for reminding me of this book. I should read it again. I think I’ve read all of Coleen McCullough’s books. I very much like the way she writes. Maybe you should start reading her series about the Romans. However I warn you. She did write quite a few pages about this particular civilisation! It would keep you occupied for quite a while. 🙂


    1. Thank you Uta – I have had a look at a couple of her books to try next and I’ve treated myself to “Tim”. It has been on TV recently so I’ve recorded it and when I’ve read the book I will perhaps watch in on the screen to see how they compare.


  2. I love book reviews – they always tempt you to have a read of the book. Thanks for this one though the message about love is a bit grim. Thorn Birds passed me by as a kid as Mum watched it and it did seem a bit girlie – no car chases or shoot’m-ups. Wasn’t Richard C in something Japanese soon after?


    1. Thanks Dave – I’m sorry I’m a bit tardy in replying to your comment. I think he was in something Japanese…. was it Shogun or something? There was a fashion at the time of doing big historical epics on TV. Tenko was on, and things like Jewel in the Nile with Charles Dance et al. Come to think of it, he was another one who pressed my girlie crush button as a teenager haha!


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