I was looking for something to watch on TV this evening, and found that The Thorn Birds was on WE. I only caught the last two hours or so of it. You know — the most heart-wrenching part. Apparently, WE ran the entire mini-series from start to finish, beginning at noon. Of course, I’ve seen it before.
One of my former colleagues once said that The Thorn Birds (by Colleen McCullough) was one of those books that you didn’t put down while you were stirring the pot. It was the second adult novel I read (the first was Gone With the Wind). I was in 7th grade. I decided that if all adult novels were this good, I was going to keep reading them! Of course, I was fortunate to read two of the best books I’ve ever read at one go. The next one I read was a romance novel that would have been rather forgettable had it not been the first one I’d read. Maybe I should clarify — when I use the term “romance novel,” I’m thinking of the bodice-rippers with scantily-clad couples embracing on the cover. I suppose it could be argued that Gone With the Wind and The Thorn Birds are romance novels, but they are something more than that, so I just don’t classify them that way. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good romance novel. I’ve been known to enjoy a few in my day. But let’s be frank — they are not as moving and enduring — as epic, indeed, as The Thorn Birds.
Oh it has been years since I saw the movie or read the book, but I was right back there in New South Wales with Meggie. I cried when Dane died. I cried when Fiona told Meggie to stop making the same mistakes she’d always made and reach out to Justine. I cried when Justine and Meggie made their peace. I cried when Ralph died.
Isn’t it hard to watch as each generation of Cleary women is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the previous? To watch as the characters are destroyed by their passion for the person they love most? You just want to shake them. I find that I actually talk to them, and sure enough, I kept urging Ralph to use his head and figure out that Dane was his son as I watched tonight. That’s good television.
Before Maggie was born, when we were discussing names, I suggested Meghan. Steve didn’t really care for the name. He suggested Margaret, after her grandmother. I thought then that would be great, because even though I didn’t have a Meghan, I could still have my little Meggie. For a time we tried to call her Meg or Meggie, but she’s just a Maggie, and there not much I can do about it. I think the nickname is perfect. It suits her personality. And truthfully, Meggie Cleary’s life is not what I want for my own daughter! All of my children have names that have layers of meaning to me, and there is a little bit of my love for the character Meggie Cleary behind my little Maggie’s name, even if my husband didn’t know it.
To be swept away into that story, even for a brief time, was a joy. I have been meaning to re-read the book for some time. Perhaps I ought to do so.
Link: The Thorn Birds at Nostalgia Central