Study Guide

An Indecent Obsession

by Colleen McCullough

An Indecent Obsession Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In An Indecent Obsession McCullough has constructed an enclosed world, a microcosm in which a controlled population of characters interact with no relief expected from outside influences. This isolation causes emotions to run high and causes reactions to events to be more intense than they might be otherwise.

Honour Langtry is in charge of the “troppo” ward, a hospital barrack for soldiers who need a rest. It is located in part of an almost evacuated hospital camp on a remote island. She has only five patients and expects the situation to be stable over the few weeks remaining before everyone goes home. Even more than the typical McCullough heroine, she is obsessed by duty. She feels responsible to do as much as possible for her patients, although she is hampered by having no special psychological training. Her solution has been to form them into a supportive family unit with herself as the matriarch.

At this point Michael, a new patient, arrives. Honour is immediately attracted to him, which upsets the balance in the ward as well as her own sense of her responsibilities. McCullough thus incorporates most of her standard themes—duty, family, forbidden love, and the influence of the environment upon people’s lives. Although the story has a human villain, Luce, an arrogant, twisted man who enjoys torturing the others, it is the island and the ward, in which the characters’ military responsibility compels them to remained...

(The entire section is 406 words.)

An Indecent Obsession Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bridgwood, Christine. “Family Romances: The Contemporary Popular Family Saga.” In The Progress of Romance: The Politics of Popular Fiction, edited by Jean Radford. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.

Brookner, Anita. “Continental Drift.” The Times Literary Supplement, no. 3941 (October 7, 1977).

Dam, Julie K. L., and John Hannah. “Thorny Bird.” People Weekly 54, no. 22 (November 27, 2000): 213.

DeMarr, Mary Jean. Colleen McCullough: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Greenberg, Joanne. “Love and Duty.” The New York Times Book Review 86 (October 25, 1981): 14, 54.

Hall, Melissa Mia. “A Very American Whodunit.” Publishers Weekly 253, no. 16 (April 17, 2006): 162.

Morris, Gwen. “An Australian Ingredient in American Soap: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.” Journal of Popular Culture 24, no. 4 (Spring, 1991).

Parasuram, Laxmi. “The Thorn Birds: An Australian Odyssey.” Journal of Australian Literature 1 (June, 1990): 101-110.

Steinberg, Sybil. “Colleen McCullough: The Indefatigable Australian Author Has Embarked on a Five-Volume Series Set in Ancient Rome.” Publishers Weekly 237, no. 37 (September 14, 1990): 109-110.