Friday, April 15, 2011

Fiction: Naked Cruelty by Colleen McCullough

Fans of Colleen McCullough’s bestselling novel The Thorn Birds will once again be somewhat disappointed by this latest offering from an author who seems never to have quite recovered from the heights hit at the earliest part of her career.

A quiet American suburb is being terrorized by a series of rapes. It’s 1968 and the girls are reluctant to come forward. When one finally does, the crime escalates to murder.

Naked Cruelty (McArthur & Company) is McCullough’s third novel to feature Captain Carmine Delmonico (after On, Off in 2006 and Too Many Murders from 2009). It’s not that the writing here is not up to the Australian author’s standards. In many ways, it’s as good as anything she’s ever written and at times it even reaches Jamesian tightness of prose and tautness of twists. But it will never be The Thorn Birds, will it? As unfair as it may be, McCullough’s star shone early when she wrote what may well be one of the most beloved novels of all time. And it’s tough not to compare the sublime heights she reached with that epic family saga. It’s tough not to stack the books next to each other and, under those circumstances, what chance does poor Captain Delmonico even have?

Miss McCullough, if you’re listening, it isn’t that we don’t love your books. We do. But we want what you gave us early on. The dry wind chasing over an Australian landscape; a wind that whispered of forbidden love. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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Anonymous Marian McTavish said...

I agree with your review but also feel that she isn't able to capture American vernacular. Her characters use obvious British (Australian)expressions and idioms so it's hard to take the story seriously. In my case I become annoyed when she is unable to accurately portray the American argot. I'd be happy to edit her books for her so that they will sound more realistic.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 12:59:00 PM PDT  

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