The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough tells the story of the Cleary family, who leaves New Zealand to live on Drogheda, a large Australian sheep station owned by Paddy Cleary's sister, Mary Carson.
Spanning three generations, the Cleary family's many triumphs and tragedies are captured in the near 700-page tome written by McCullough and published in 1977. In 1983, The Thorn Birds became an epic mini-series starring Barbara Standwyck, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Plummer, and Rachel Ward, that aired during Holy Week, causing a huge controversy and raising the ire of the United States Catholic Conference.
While The Thorn Birds spans three generations of the Cleary family, it is mostly a story of forbidden love between a handsome priest whose ambitions bring him from an Outback parish to the inner circles of the Vatican, and Meggie Cleary, the only daughter of Paddy and Fiona Cleary. Father Ralph de Bricassart's love for Meggie, who is several years his junior, follows him no matter where he goes, until he is forced to confront Meggie and their desire for each other.
The Thorn Birds is a novel filled with great sacrifices that its characters make in the name of love, and therefore, it flows in perfectly with this month's theme of "Giving Up".
This story remains one of my all-time favorites. While I haven't read the book in its entirety in many years, I still remember many passages from it. And the mini-series was so well done that I am at a loss to decide which I like more--the book or the movie.
In 1996, Richard Chamberlain reprised his role of Father Ralph de Bricassart for the television movie, The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years, but this movie did not hold the appeal that the first mini-series did. In my opinion, that is because there really were no "missing years" to write about. In the book and the first movie, Ralph and Meggie were apart for many years while Ralph climbed the ladder at the Vatican and Meggie lived her own life on Drogheda; so the entire premise behind The Missing Years made absolutely no sense, unless we're talking dollars and cents.
If you've never had a chance to read The Thorn Birds or watch the mini-series, I highly recommend that you do. This is forbidden love at its best.