“There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to outcarol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain…. Or so says the legend.”
The first time I found myself more consumed with the way the words on the page were written―over and above the story itself ― was when reading The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCollough. While the story is epic, the characters memorable, and the book iconic, it was the writing that took center stage. Like a first crush, I still remember where I was, and the heat of that summer. This book was an unforgettable milestone that greatly enhanced my reading journey.
Ms. McCollough offered poetic passages throughout her tale that captured raw human desire and desperation so powerfully I had to stop reading and savor them, in the same way I must interrupt a brisk walk to take pleasure in the smell of a flower that has caught my attention.
I felt smitten with her words in the very first chapter when she described the scenery.
“Yet it was a gentle, gracious land. Beyond the house stretched an undulating plain as green as the emerald in Fiona Cleary’s engagement ring, dotted with thousands of creamy bundles close proximity revealed as sheep.”
And since that day, so long ago, when I read her description of making love, as a body poem, it remains how I think of it today.
“From the moment he had pulled her back from the door it had been a body poem, a thing of arms and hands and skin and utter pleasure.”
Remembering back to how the prose in this book literally defined my reading tastes, I began to wonder about the books that have touched others in the same way.
I’d love to hear about your “first book crush.”