Colleen McCullough – Angel

Posted on | July 14, 2010 | 10 Comments

Colleen McCullough's Angel CoverI 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?


10 Responses to “Colleen McCullough – Angel”

  1. Kathy
    July 14th, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

    I haven’t read anything by McCullough yet but I have a copy of The Thornbirds just waiting for me to pick it up.

  2. Claire (Paperback Reader)
    July 14th, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

    I really must read something else by McCullough; I read The Thorn Birds about as many years ago as you did. I did recently add a book by her to my wishlist; it’s about Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, which should be interesting…

  3. Joanna
    July 15th, 2010 @ 9:31 am

    I’ve only read The Thorn Birds so can’t help you there!

  4. JoAnn
    July 15th, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

    I LOVED The Thorn Birds when I read it sooo long ago! Her historical novels never interested me, but Tim and The Ladies of Missalonghi were the other two I read right around that same time – loved them both!

  5. anothercookiecrumbles
    July 15th, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

    @ Kathy : Oh, do read The Thorn Birds. It is absolutely smashing! And thanks for commenting on here for the first time. :)

    @ Claire : Think it’s The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett? I’ve heard mixed reviews about that, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it!

    @ Joanna : Thorn Birds was fantastic though!! It’s probably worth a re-read!

    @ JoAnn : I’ve got Tim back home, and I’ve heard some pretty good things about it, so am really looking forward to reading it. Not heard of The Ladies of Missalonghi, so thanks for the recommendation. Might be one I’ll just have to pick up!

  6. Stephanie
    July 15th, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

    I have The Thorn Birds and have only heard good things about it. It is time I actually read it!

  7. Nymeth
    July 16th, 2010 @ 9:57 am

    I’m usually not a fan of too neat endings either, but it sounds like it works in this case :)

  8. Bellezza
    July 19th, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    I love it when another book from a beloved author doesn’t disappoint! So many times that isn’t the case for me (I’m almost afraid to read Her Fearful Symmetry after loving The Time Traveler’s Wife), so it’s good to know you enjoyed this one. The Thorn Birds was great, wasn’t it?

  9. Carolyn
    April 17th, 2011 @ 2:44 am

    I read the Thorn Birds probably over 30 years ago and loved it. I didn’t read another Colleen McCullough book until recently.

    I read The Touch which I enjoyed, and again, enjoyed Morgans Run. I’m currently reading Angel.

    Colleen is a good writer but In this book and others she seems to have a “good idea” for a plot in her head but doesn’t develop that plot or the characters sufficiently in the book. I find that particularly in “Angel”. This mute child appears, skulking under the table and such, scribbling on the walls but with no greater depth of character or truly of her relationship with Harriet. I think the author presumes we know the feelings as created in her mind but not written down. I’m finding the book readable but the supposed core of the story, Flo….referred to as “My Angel” I find a bit cringe-worthy and uncomfortable. There are other silly references that I find odd too. After the death of Mrs.Delvecchio-Schwarz she describes examining Flo by “peeling off her shabby bloomers and examining her pubes”…..This is a four year old chld for goodness sake!!

    I will finish the book but it’s one I’ll discard rather than pass on.

    Morgans Run is an interesting book and well-worth reading…but again, the author clearly “knows” the characters in her own mind but fails to describe that and the relationships sufficiently well to her readers.

    For anyone wanting a really good read, I would recommend Diana Gabaldon and the Outlander series….English version starts with a book called “Cross Stitch”…this lady is an absolutely fabulous author and when you’ve finished the 7 books in the series, you’re bereft at the loss of such good friends. The best series of books I’ve ever, or probably ill ever read. Every book after these seems to be failing in one aspect or another.

    Anyway folks…..”Angel” is okay, well-worth reading but not on my top ten list.

  10. Clare
    August 3rd, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

    I adore practically anything written by Colleen McCullough – she has wonderful, humerous insight into the human mind or can easily write about the darkness of the human spirit with equal ease. One of my all time favourites of her novels is Ladies of Missalonghi, followed by Creed for the Third Millennium and Indecent Obsession.. Wonderful stuff!

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