The Thorn Birds is a historical fiction and romance novel written by Australian author Colleen McCullough, originally published in 1977. The novel tells the tragic and impossible love story of the handsome Irish Catholic priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart, and the charming farmer's daughter, Maggie Cleary. The novel is also considered a bildungsroman, as it follows Maggie's character development from early childhood to old age.
When it comes to happy and functional relationships, the one couple that seems to have a good and loving marriage are Anne and Luddie Mueller. Both Anne and Luddie are described as kind, compassionate, and friendly individuals who share a very unique and precious bond. They are Maggie's employers, but they also become close friends with her and are always there when she needs support.
Maggie's ambitious daughter, Justine, and the considerate German tech magnate, Rainer Moerling Hartheim, also have a good relationship, despite their ten year age difference and Justine's insistence to emotionally distance herself from Rainer. They are both obviously in love with each other; however, Justine decides to focus on her career as an actress, and Rainer promises to wait for her until she fulfills her dreams and is ready to commit to a serious relationship. Justine does eventually marry Rainer, and it is implied that they have a good and stable marriage.
The beautiful and rich Fiona and the kind and poor Irish farmer Paddy have an interesting relationship in the novel. Paddy falls in love with Fiona at first sight; however, Fiona never actually shows her true emotions. This is one of the main reasons why some readers may think that their marriage is a bad one at first, as their love often comes across as one-sided; however, the readers soon realize that their marriage can actually be described as an average one or even a good one, as the couple has more ups than downs in their relationship.
Even though her husband and her children love her, Fiona tends to keep to herself; no one knows what she's thinking or what she's feeling. Despite her seemingly apathetic nature, Fiona respects Paddy, listens to him, and rarely questions his choices or actions. It is noteworthy to mention that Fiona's father actually paid Paddy to marry her, but he was in love with her anyway, and that Fiona loves her son Frank the most, as he was the son of her great love—Pakeha. Fiona realizes that she is deeply in love with her husband after he tragically loses his life in a fire, thus proving that people truly don't know what they have until its gone and that they realize the importance of someone only after they've lost them.
Finally, the most fitting example of a bad marriage in the novel is the marriage between Maggie and Luke. Luke marries Maggie for her money, and he is described as a greedy, materialistic opportunist who values money above everything else and treats women as objects. Their marriage is an unhappy one right form the very start, and their relationship is very unhealthy. Maggie is still unconditionally in love with Father Ralph; she indirectly blames him for her miserable marriage and accuses him of abandoning her because of his faith and giving up on their love because of his deep devotion to God and to the Church. Maggie ends up losing both her son, Dane, who drowns while trying to rescue two women from drowning, and her lover, Ralph, who dies in her arms soon after their son Dane loses his life .