Sunday, November 30, 2008

THE THORN BIRDS:THE BEGINNING OF AN UNLIKELY LOVE

Images shot from DVD 
This is the title of a very touching story(also adapted into a mini-series) by Colleen McCullough that I’ve read several times and I decided to share it with my visitors so I can get honest opinions. The Thorn Birds is a romantic saga of three generations and it all begins with a little girl called Meghann Cleary, commonly called ‘Meggie’ by friends and family. She is the only girl in a family of several boys, headed by a very hardworking Irish man called Paddy and his overworked wife, Fiona, commonly called ‘Fee.’ She had been handed over to Paddy years back after she had ‘disgraced’ her aristocratic family and did her utmost best to be a good wife and mother but most times she was quiet and remote and mostly favoured her eldest boy, Frank, who never got on well with Paddy. This family lived in New Zealand.
In Australia lived Mary Carson, Paddy’s older sister who had married a rich man and owned several properties; the most well known is her sheep station called ‘Drogheda’. She was a widow with no children and as such decided to send for Paddy and his family to help out in the estate but will become her heirs after she died. When they arrive, the priest of the parish is sent to pick them up from the train station. The 28 year old, stunningly handsome priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart, goes to the station to meet the Cleary family and is immediately captivated by the 10 year old Meggie, whom he regarded as the sweetest, most adorable little girl he’d ever seen and the daughter he’ll never have. Meggie in turn makes Father Ralph the centre of her world as the family, except her oldest brother Frank, hardly had time for her. Ralph and Meggie from then on formed an unbreakable bond. This made Mary Carson angry and jealous; she harboured a deeply passionate obsession for Ralph and hoped in time she’ll be able to entice him into breaking his vows by using her money as bait. He needed money in order to liberate him from his present exile (he was there because he’d been rude to a bishop) and hoped Mary would give him a hefty sum for the Catholic Church, so that he’ll rise up and one day be Cardinal.
Frank’s rocky relationship with Paddy hits the rocks permanently one fateful evening. During a quarrel witnessed by Ralph and Meggie, Paddy unintentionally blurts out the truth; he’s not Frank’s father. Fee’s ‘disgrace’ had been sleeping with a married politician, at the age of 17 and gotten pregnant with Frank. After her grandmother (the only one who’d supported her) died, her rich father had handed her over to Paddy, who’d been one pf the workers on the estate and was forever banished from the family. As Frank was the fruit of that lost love, Fee loved him far more than anyone in the family. Devastated, Frank left home to join a boxing troupe but was later imprisoned for assault. Unhappy at what she’d witnessed and the death of her baby brother afterwards, Meggie clung to Ralph more than ever over the years; he did his best to console her and spent most of his free time with her, infuriating Mary all the more. Everyone else merely saw their relationship as that of brother and sister, but not her. She decided that though she’ll never have Ralph, she’d see to it Meggie never had him instead and would always be dependent on him.
Mary’s 72nd birthday party changed the course of Ralph & Meggie’s lives forever. Meggie showed up at the party looking very beautiful in an ashes of roses (rose-pink) dress, shyly looking at Ralph. It was then Ralph’s feelings evolved- Meggie was now 18, and no longer little Meggie, he was now IN LOVE with her. Two guests noticed the way he gazed at her and stroked her hair, which made him restrain himself and avoided her for the rest of the evening. Later on in the garden, he explained to Meggie that some people might feel their relationship wasn’t platonic if he’d been more attentive towards her. Meggie in turn realised her own feelings towards Ralph. Mary died in her sleep that night and it’s discovered she’d made a new will which forced Ralph to choose between Meggie and his ambition to become Cardinal one day. Drogheda and 13 million pounds is to go to the Catholic Church. The Clearys were to remain in Drogheda as administrators and residents as long as a Cleary descendant was alive- Ralph was to be the executor and pay them hefty salaries. Paddy refused to contest the will, much to Ralph’s anger, he KNEW why Mary had done what she did and he hated her for it. Paddy and the family weren’t greedy, they felt living in Drogheda for the rest of their lives and earning large salaries was more than enough- besides the sum of 13 million pounds frightened Paddy. Ralph and Meggie exchange a very painful goodbye. They confessed their love but Ralph begged her to marry and be happy with someone else. They exchanged their first kiss before he abruptly left her for Sydney. Meggie was unhappy but was confident Ralph would somehow leave the church and marry her.
Some time later, one of the fields in Drogheda is struck by lightning and catches fire. Paddy is burnt to death and one of his sons, Stuart who went to look for him is gored to death by a wild boar. Ralph comes to Drogheda and is told the sad news. He finds Meggie alone and consoles her, which led to them to exchange passionate kisses again, but Ralph forces himself not to let it go further. Ralph conducted the funerals and before he left, Meggie gave him a rose to remember her by. He placed it in his missal and kept it there from then on.
Three years later, a new worker at the ranch, Luke O’ Neill courts Meggie and in an effort to forget Ralph, she encourages it.






-TO BE CONTINUED...

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