Colleen McCullough hated Meggie Cleary.
The news came as quite a surprise to me, but apparently it’s true. In April 2009, as the best-selling auteur worked on the stage musical version of her literary triumph, the UK Daily Mail quoted her directly:
“Meggie in The Thorn Birds is basically my mother. I detested her. Can u imagine writing a 280,000-word book and hating your heroine? She was everything I despise in a woman. She suffered and, worst of all, she enjoyed suffering.”
I didn’t pick up on the author’s hatred when reading the book – far from it – my interpretation was that McCullough really felt for her central character.
The book was divided into 7 sections, and the first of these is titled ‘Meggie’ – it delves into her history; her relationships, her upbringing, and those key moments that helped to form the woman that she would become.
There were times that I wanted to slap some sense into Meggie, but my frustration was always leveled door compassion because I understood her feelings and motivations.