After finding an old-school cover edition of The Thorn Birds at Costco, I've been rereading this epic novel over the past few days. I absolutely love Colleen McCullough's voice and writing style: the story goes down like a smooth, creamy milkshake.
I remember watching the mini-series starring Rachel Ward and Richard Chamberlain. I don't recall if I first read the book, then watched the mini-series or vice versa back in the day. I do know that having watched the mini-series is seriously affecting my current re-reading of the book because I cannot get out of my head the images of the two actors playing Meggie and Fthr. Ralph. As pretty as Rachel is and as handsome as Richard was in his younger days, neither actor fits the description from the book, and it's very distracting for me.
Father Ralph de Bricassart is described as an incredibly beautiful man. This handsomeness is a great source of most of his misery since it incites in Mary Carson a lust so overwhelming that she becomes the world's most evil spurned-woman when he turns down her advances. No matter to her that he's a priest or that he's forty some odd years younger than she is. She wants the dude and his refusal to accept her invitation into her bed results in some major life-long suffering on his part.
[Sidebar to say that Mary Carson's lust for the much younger Fthr. Ralph is a serious Eeew! moment in the book, only slightly more creepy than the fact that Fthr. Ralph ultimately ends up falling in love with the girl he meets when she's only nine and he's in his late twenties. For crying out loud, the man explains menstruation to the girl and then ends up sleeping with her. Still, it's a great story!]
In all her life [Mary Carson] could not remember seeing a better-looking man, nor one who used his beauty in quite the same way. He had to be aware of how he looked: the height and the perfect proportions of his body, the fine aristocratic features, the way every physical element had been put together with a degree of care about the appearance of the finished product God lavished on few of His creations. From the loose black curls of his head and the startling blue of his eyes to the small, slender hands and feet, he was perfect.Where are the loose black curls? Rich's hair is most definitely brown with not so much as a wave much less a curl. Sure, the eyes are blue. But I don't see in this face the pure beauty that Fthr. Ralph is supposed to possess. Rich's handsomeness is more of the rugged, manly type rather than a slender, aristocratic beauty.
The sweetest, the most-adorable little girl he had ever seen; hair of a color which defies description, not red and not gold, a perfect fusion of both. And looking up at him with silver-grey eyes of such a lambent purity, like melted jewels.
Rachel Ward's hair is at best auburn. Sydney's isn't even on the same planet as "red-gold". Both actresses have chocolate-brown eyes. I do give the casting directors credit for finding a child-actress that looks as if she might one day look like the grown-up actress, but that's all the points they get. I just find it hard to believe they couldn't find a single pair of strawberry-blonde, grey-eyed actresses in all of the land to play the child and adult Meggie, or at the very least, ones who had light eyes rather than dark brown.
Now, I'm not stupid. I know that ever since the first brilliant flash of inspiration that led whomever to realize books could be made into movies (or mini-series) that there have been actors and actresses who've deviated completely from their literary counterparts as far as appearances go. Heck, even romance novel book covers get it wrong a lot of the time when it comes to hair and/or eye color. But it's rare that something like this affects me when I read the story. Usually I tune out any external influences and let my imagination fill in the blanks using the written descriptions as a starting point.
For some reason, I simply cannot stop picturing Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward as I'm reading this book. This time, I guess the mini-series trumps the original.