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Posts Tagged ‘saga’

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The Thorn Birds has been on my tbr shelf (I laughingly refer to it as a shelf as if there aren’t that many books I have not yet read – ha!) for about six years. It’s not generally the kind of book I go in for, but I bought it for some reason – I have a feeling my aunt recommended it – and just occasionally I like to get caught up in a sweeping saga, so in search of some escapism (at the time of writing, most of the world is on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic) I decided this might do the trick.

Pretty much all I knew about The Thorn Birds prior to reading was that there was a tv series adaptation in the 1980, starring Richard Chamberlain; I knew it was about the love between a woman and a Catholic Priest, and apparently it was extremely scandalous!! With this in mind, the book turned out to be a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a love story but this is more of a family saga, concentrating on three generations of the Cleary family. It takes place from the early to mid/late 20th century on a homestead in Australia (mainly) and at the centre of it is Father Ralph De Briccassart and his love for Meggie Cleary. It starts as a paternal type of love as Meggie is only a child when they first meet, and Ralph is a young priest, but as she grows older, their love becomes more – but Ralph’s vocation is always between them.

A lot of the book is given over to other characters – in the beginning, Meggie’s brothers and parents; and later on the net generation of the family, Justine and Dane. The hardships and realities of running a sheep station in Australia.

I did more or less enjoy the book – clearly it was well researched and it did hold my attention for the most part. However, I did not particularly warm to Meggie and I certainly didn’t like Ralph, who seemed particularly mercenary and manipulative. Nonetheless, I am glad I read it although it wouldn’t be a story I would probably want to reread at any point.

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This saga tells the story of the Tolliver and the Warwick families, who are two of the three founding families of the town of Howbutker in the Southern States of America.  Along with the third family, the Dumonts, they agree that if one ever offends the other, they would send a red rose to ask forgiveness.  The other family would send a white rose to say that forgiveness had been granted.  They lived alongside each other as neighbours and great friends, until in 1916, young  Mary Tolliver inherits Somerset, their cotton plantation from her father, against the wishes and expectations of her mother and brother.  A rift develops, and matters are made worse when Mary turns down the proposal of handsome Percy Warwick, the timber magnate.  The scene is set for a story that will have consequences for all  families concerned, and for their future generations.

This book was obviously influenced by Gone With The Wind (a precocious Southern belle, who is determined to save her family’s cotton farm at any cost), but it has its own story to tell.  It relates events from three points of view, and only by reading all of them, does the whole picture become clear.

I enjoyed every page of the book – the story had plenty of twists and a few shocks, and I thought it brought the periods described into clear focus.  I liked most of the characters; Mary (like Scarlett O’Hara before her) was not always easy to warm to, but the book did a good job of explaining things from her perspective.

The writing flowed beautifully, even if it had an occasional tendency to get ‘flowery’ and it was one of those books where I kept thinking, “I’ll read just a few more pages.”  I liked the earlier parts of the story – those set in the 1920s and 1930s, more than the modern(ish) section, which showed how the events of years earlier were still reverberating down through the decades.  Nonetheless, the last part did round things off very well.

Although this is quite a big book at more than 600 pages, it didn’t feel like a long read.  I would recommend it, and will look out for more by Leila Meacham.

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