Colleen McCullough died on January 29th. For those who actually need to be told, she was the author of The Thorn Birds.
Ma remembers when she took out The Thorn Birds; Luke was a baby on her hip. "What a book I'm reading, Ma," she swooned to Babi, all those years ago. "What a book."
I do not remember how old I was, or where I was, but I certainly remember the book. I have read it more than once.
McCullough wrote other books as well, none as fascinating as "The Thorn Birds," but certainly notable works. I had stumbled across her Master of Rome series following an uninspiring college course on Roman history; she made the whole topic fascinating to me, which the professor had failed to do. Seven fantastic books.
Morgan's Run was about an Englishman wrongfully convicted and shipped off to Australia in the 1700s. She took such care in detailing the everyday lives before indoor plumbing that I was absorbed.
The Touch, about a marriageable-aged girl shipped off to Australia to marry her emigrant cousin who made it big, was quite arresting—I still think about its characters—but I found the ending implausibly perfect.
The Song of Troy took out the supernatural happenings of The Iliad and replaced it with more probable occurrences, insinuating the epic retellings were exaggerated. Love Greek myth, loved it too.
However, whatever you do, do not read The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. It is an absolute train wreck. I had expected another witty comedy of manners as it was a sequel to Pride & Prejudice, but it quickly devolved into a bizarre criminal thriller. I was not thrilled.
According to her obituary, McCullough was, um, vitriolic to her literary critics.
Negative reviews did not appear to faze Ms. McCullough, whom The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a 1996 profile, described as “a woman supremely unafflicted by self-doubt.”
“I think in their heart of hearts all these people know that I’m more secure than they are, more confident than they are and smarter than they are,” she said of her critics in a 2007 interview on Australian television. In her nearly four decades in the limelight, it was one of her few printable replies on the subject.
Mind you, her father verbally abused her, so she had every reason to think badly of herself. Writing wasn't even her original calling; she was a neurophysiologist first.
Talk about a day job.
Talk about a day job.