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UNESCO Cities Bookshelf: Colin McCullough The Thorn Birds
19.04.2022

On the bookshelf of UNESCO cities, we will meet many different authors from different parts of the world with their multifaceted works that have excited more than one generation of readers. Polina Nikolaeva, press secretary of the program, a young poet and writer from Ulyanovsk, will tell us about them.
Today we will talk about the novel by Australian writer Colleen McCullough "The Thorn Birds". A family saga novel by Australian writer Colleen McCullough was published in 1977. Almost immediately, it became a bestseller, was translated into more than 20 languages ​​and brought worldwide popularity to the author.

Meaning of the novel's title
The name was chosen by the author not by chance. At the very beginning, readers are given a beautiful legend about a bird that sings only once in a lifetime. One day she flies off in search of a thorn bush, where she looks for the sharpest and longest thorn. Sticking its breast into it, the bird performs the most beautiful song, which even larks and nightingales envy. The whole world freezes, listening to her. And all because the most beautiful and best in this life comes through great suffering and torment.
There are doubts about the origin of this legend. Some argue that it came from an old Celtic tradition. However, there was no mention of him before the release of the novel. A more likely option is that this is a kind of author's interpretation of Oscar Wilde's fairy tale "The Nightingale and the Rose".
Metaphorically, these thorn-singers in the novel are its main characters, in particular, Maggie Cleary and Ralph de Bricassart.

The meaning of the work "The Thorn Birds"
The novel tells about the life of the Cleary family, each member of which goes through a special, but always difficult path. Each part of the work is dedicated to the disclosure of one of the characters and sets a certain time frame. There are 7 in total: Maggie, Ralph, Paddy, Luke, Fia, Dan, Justina.
The central part of the story is given to the love story of Maggie Cleary - the youngest daughter in the family - and Ralph de Bricassar. They first meet when the family moves from New Zealand to Australia to live with a relative who bequeaths them a farm. Then Maggie is still very young, and Ralph is a young priest with great career ambitions. A special connection and mutual understanding is immediately established between them, which quite logically flow into deeper feelings. However, their love is not destined to be happy, because Father Ralph took a vow of celibacy.
Their story is an example of complex, confusing, forbidden, but true love. For single moments of shared happiness, they pay with long years of inexorable torment and internal torment. Both have a long conflict between feeling and duty. To a greater extent, of course, we see this with Ralph. He is constantly torn between his religious career and his love for Maggie. He is devoted to his God, his faith, but he cannot completely abandon his beloved woman, seeing the sincere reciprocity of feelings. And this struggle in him continues until his death.
In addition to love, the family theme is widely represented in the novel. In the course of the story, we understand that the Cleary is far from being an ideal family. They seem to be far apart. So, for example, mother Fia rarely communicates and shares something with her only daughter Maggie. That is why the latter approaches Ralph - she needs someone who is able to listen to her, explain some things and just be there, support. The children of the family are also not very close. It cannot be said that they do not love each other, but this love is often silent and seemingly unconditional.

The meaning of the final piece
At the end, a line is drawn for all directions given in the novel, except for one. The story of Maggie's eldest daughter Justina remains open. She leaves for her dream of becoming an actress in London, where she marries, and we know nothing more about her. Other stories are coming to an end.
Maggie and Ralph's son Dan inherited two things from his father: blue eyes and faith. The latter becomes the cause of his early death: saving two women from the water, he dies, obeying God's will. This is a kind of punishment for Maggie, as she herself believes: God took away her two beloved men.
At the end of the work, Ralph's internal conflict comes to an end. When he learns that Dan is his son, he realizes how much he has sacrificed because of his career and some vanity and ambition. He regrets not spending his life next to the woman he loves.
Also, at the end of the novel, a warmer and more friendly relationship is established between Fia and Maggie. Fee is the only one who immediately realized whose son Maggie really is. Moreover, she does not blame her, but understands, because she herself went through a similar story. The similarity of destinies and a kind of female solidarity bring mother and daughter closer.
In the finale, each hero analyzes his life and revises the values ​​that he once had. Yes, their fates are complex and not so successful, but everyone understands and admits their mistakes, even if only at the very end.

So we met with another author and another wonderful work from the shelf of UNESCO cities of literature. Share your opinion about the work and ask your questions in the comments, and the directorate of the Ulyanovsk - UNESCO City of Literature program will be happy to answer them.