As World War I sputters to its end, the Paddy Cleary’s childless older sister offers to turn her sheep station, Drogheda, over to him and his family on her death if he’ll come run it.
The Cleary family leaves the green intimacy of New Zealand for brown horizons of the Outback.
Life is hard, but even young Meggie accepts that as normal.
Four of the five Cleary boys love Drogheda; only Frank, the eldest and his mother’s favorite, hates it. He goes off to be a boxer.
The handsome priest who serves the parish is eyed lecherously by Paddy’s sister.
Determined if she can’t have Ralph de Bricassart God won’t either, she writes a new will, leaving Paddy’ s family Drogheda and its income for their lifetime, but giving the bulk of her vast wealth to the Church.
Meggie gets away from Drogheda long enough to marry a man by whom she has one child and to have an affair with Ralph, now attached to the Vatican.
The Thorn Birds is not a pretty story, but Colleen McCullough doesn’t wallow in the dirt.
Her characters make mistakes, takes their lumps, learn their lessons, move on.
And the novel’s worth reading just for McCullough’s Australian landscapes.
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
Harper & Row, 1977. 533 p.
1977 bestseller #2. My grade: B
On the Beach is a gripping novel of suspense and horror by a master storyteller.
I burst into tears after I finished it.
Nevil Shute (a pen name; his real name is Norway) writes quietly, warmly about people who seem familiar. There’s no blood and gore in this novel: just the raw horror of seeing the personal effects of world events.
The book opens Dec. 27 in Australia in the aftermath of a nuclear war that wiped out life in the northern hemisphere.
Radioactive particles in the atmosphere are slowly making their way south. Scientists predict they will have reached Australia by September.
Australian naval officer Peter Holmes, assigned as liaison officer on an American nuclear submarine—one of two remaining American vessels in the world—invites American Captain Dwight Towers home for the weekend.
Peter’s wife gives a party, inviting Moria Davidson to amuse the captain. Moria falls hard for the captain; he likes her, too, but he loves his wife and kids back home in Connecticut.
Besides, he has a job to do.
Radio signals have been coming intermittently from Puget Sound. Mostly the signals have been gibberish, but there have been occasional decipherable words. Captain Towers is sent to investigate.
What happens after that will terrify anyone who keeps up with world news.
On the Beach
by Nevil Shute
William Morrow, 1957. 320 pages.
#8 on the 1957 bestseller list.
My grade: A+