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Colleen McCullough 1938?–

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Australian novelist.

McCullough is best known for her popular novel, The Thorn Birds (1977), a generational saga set in Australia that was made into a television miniseries. Because of its romantic nature and entertaining narrative, The Thorn Birds has been termed an Australian Gone with the Wind.

McCullough's first novel, Tim (1974), sensitively explores a love relationship between a spinster and a younger retarded man. Although well received critically, it did not attain the best-selling status of either The Thorn Birds or An Indecent Obsession (1981), her third novel.

McCullough admits that she does not strive to create great literature, and most critics agree that the value of her fiction lies in its ability to entertain. They find her plots engrossing although somewhat contrived, her characterizations adequate, and her descriptions of Australian life and landscape skillful. Her thematic concern centers on the conflict between love and duty.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)

Publishers Weekly

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This first novel of awakenings [Tim] is a lovely and refreshing addition to tales of love. It is also, however, a story with a difference, one that might be characterized as love triumphant, but not love without its bittersweet shadings. Mary Horton is a middle-aged, successful businesswoman, a spinster. Raised an orphan, she has lived her life alone, has relied on her own discipline and self-sufficiency—until Tim comes along. He is 25, an Adonis in body, a child in spirit…. Colleen McCullough's telling of the story of Tim and Mary—how they meet and what happens—is accomplished, sensitive and wise.

A review of "Tim," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the February 18, 1974 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1974 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 205, No. 7, February 18, 1974, p. 67.

Best Sellers

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The course of this novel [Tim] is rather predictable and the bitterness of the last two pages does not restore realism to what is basically a very romantic tale—but it is a good, warm, rather lovely story with some delightful characters. And the slang of Australia in the somewhat idealized dialogue is spicy and, to northern-hemisphere ears, fresh and pleasant….

[The] plot is not only idyllic, it is a little too pat. Yet, it is worked out with skill and the people are real, made all the more real by their speech, much of it earthy slang. Some of the characters and some of their conversations are sheer delights.

A review of "Tim," in Best Sellers (copyright 1974, by the University of Scranton), Vol. 34, No. 4, May 15, 1974, p. 97.

Margaret Ferrari

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Tim is a simple, effective first novel by Colleen McCullough whose native Australia serves as the book's setting.

The novel is direct rather than subtle. It tells a gentle, spare story of a growing relationship and a mutual awakening of Mary Horton, a 45-year-old spinster who has never paid any attention to her own emotional needs in her climb from orphanhood to financial success, and Tim Melville, a strikingly beautiful, 25-year-old, mentally retarded boy whose innocence and gentleness are still intact.

Well into the novel, a specialist in the problems of the retarded voices what might be the book's central thrust: "Not one of us is born without something beautiful and something undesirable in us."…

Tim is a manual laborer "without the full quid," who catches Mary's eye and unsettles her world….

Each of the two people become the center of the other's life, partly because of their growing love for one another, and partly because Tim is being left without family to care for him.

Mary would never think of marriage as a solution, even though she is aware that she has awakened previously unfelt emotions in Tim, but...

(The entire section contains 6232 words.)

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McCullough, Colleen (Vol. 107)