Posted on | July 14, 2010 | 10 Comments
I loved The Thorn Birds when I read it, almost ten years ago. Never went near another book by Colleen McCullough after that, as I was scared it would ruin The Thorn Birds for me. However, while browsing around at the library, I saw a fair few books by McCullough, and decided to take the plunge. So happy that I did – I loved this book!
It’s a diary of twenty-one year old Harriet Purcell in the 1960s. An X- Ray technician, Harriet’s engaged to the boy she’s been dating for a long time (but he doesn’t even kiss with his mouth open!), and she shares a bedroom with her grandmother.
Despite what, on the face of it, seems like the perfect life, Harriet isn’t completely happy. So, much to her parents’ chagrin, she moves out of home to The House, which is located at the sleazy side of Sydney, Kings Cross. Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz is her landlord, and her neighbours include artists, prostitutes and lesbians. Harriet, having lived an extremely sheltered life, hadn’t ever interacted with any lesbians prior to this!
The main thing that convinced Harriet to move into The House was her landlady’s daughter, Flo – a four year old child, who’s affectionate but a mute. She helps Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz in her profession as a soothsayer – a business she initially started as a racket, but with time, her predictions became accurate thanks to Flo. Harriet fell in love with the child at first glance, and continuously refers to her as an “angel.” She does have her nemesis in Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz lover, though…
Harriet matures as she keeps writing her diary – she takes a walk on the wild side; has her first affair, has a long-lasting affair with a senior doctor, learns how to cook, and works hard to first be transferred to Casualty, and then asked to run the X Ray unit in Casualty. She’s intelligent, energetic, generous, conscientious and presumably attractive (based on the number of men who are attracted to her). She’s also got a strong independent streak, and has a wicked sense of humour (referring to her ex-fiance as a “constipated Christian boy.” At times, she comes across as a hedonist – someone who loves life, and wants to live it to the fullest!
And though this is only a few days old, I’m already well into a fat exercise book, and I’m quite addicted. Maybe that’s because I can never sit still and think, I always have to be doing something, so now I’m killing two birds with the same stone. I get to think about what’s happening to me, yet I’m doing something at the same time. There’s a discipline about writing the stuff down, I see it better. Just like my work. I give it all my attention because I enjoy it.
She’s also naive and innocent, struggling to figure out some things which everyone around her seems to understand – be it about sex, or lifestyle, or life at Kings Cross. Full credit her though, as she befriends all the social “outcastes,” without paying much heed to their lifestyle choices. She sees them as “real” people, and doesn’t put them in the brackets that society does.
Tonight has been a blinding enlightenment. I can never think the same about people again. Publicly one thing, behind closed doors something very different. Dorian Gray everywhere.
Of course, as things roll, there’s a twist and a turn, but annoyingly enough, there’s a perfectly happy ending, where everything just falls into place, and makes sense, and they all live happily ever after, despite it looking as if there would be no light at the end of the bleak metaphoric tunnel, for the longest time. I’m not really the biggest fan of books that end with all the loose ends tied up perfectly, but somehow, it did work for this novel, and left me feeling very glad that I’d read it.
Have you read anything by Colleen McCullough? If yes, what would you recommend I read next?