Large and uneventful, just like Australia itself.
743 pages, ★★★
The Thorn Birds is a novel about a family who migrates to Australia by boat, then procreates. Not much else happens in 743 pages.
The Thorn Birds teaches me that 100 years of history (from 1850 to 1950) can be summarised as follows: they arrived, they had sex, and they killed all the rabbits. Compared to the founding of Communist China or the United States, this book makes the founding of Australia look like a walk in the park.
Admittedly, it’s because I recently read Mao’s Last Dancer, Wild Swans and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out that this book feels dull in comparison. Those three books were filled with revolution, massacres, political struggles and people tinkering on the verge of life and death. Reading about China’s Cultural Revolution numbed me somewhat to the delicate nuances and character developments in The Thorn Birds—just like how eating whole, raw chillies makes everything else taste bland for some time afterwards.
Maybe this book will make other books more enjoyable… Or maybe I’ll enjoy the fine character descriptions much more next time I read it. Either way, it’s going back on the shelf for a long time. ★★★