This is a truly a great and classic novel. I do not bestow these oft-overused adjectives lightly. This is a story of deep, rich, and forbidden love, betrayal, tragedy, and ambition. This is a truly wonderful story set primarily in Australia, circa 1915 and then spanning several generations to the post World War II era. McCullough writes a sprawling story which primarily centers on the forbidden love between an extraordinary woman and a good but ambitious priest.
This is the story of the Cleary family, originally from Ireland, who emigrate first to New Zealand, and early on, to Australia. The young Cleary daughter, Meggie, falls in love with the local Catholic priest, Ralph de Briccasart, who is a good and ambitious man who certainly does nothing to encourage this love, but who certainly returns it as he regards Meggie as the daughter he can never have. As Meggie matures, he comes to regard her in a more romantic way. A great struggle arises between this love on the one hand ("the forbidden rose") and his ambition to become a Cardinal or perhaps more, on the other.
There is much, much, more to the story than this, however. The novel transports the reader to Australia, and makes that country a real place to those of us who have never been there. This is also the story of the struggles of the Cleary family, as they battle with, and come to love, the rich outback country of Australia. This is an extraordinarily authentic and moving story that any review (or at least this one) can only fail to do justice.
McCullough's prose is simply outstanding, and her characters crackle with realism--they become utterly real people and the reader will become swept away with this wonderful story. The storyline never drags, and at no point does this novel ever fail to completely capture the reader's attention. This novel is not only a classic; it is a ripping good read! If you have not yet enjoyed this novel, you are in for a wonderful reading experience.