An unlikely love story

She – Mary Horton – a 43 year old straight-laced spinster with two houses but no space for love or friendship.

He – Tim Melville – a 25 year old young man with Greek God looks and the brain of a child.

Tim by Colleen McCullough has to be one of the most unlikely love-stories. In this debut novel McCullough crafts her characters with meticulous care and so much love that you cannot but be moved.


Writing about a character such as Tim is a challenging task because you have so much to say you don’t know where to start. You desperately want your readers to feel about him just as you do and you struggle to find words to say it all and worry, wondering if you will ever do it justice.

I am going to try, though.

Mary spots Tim first at her neighbour’s house where he’s part of a construction crew and is entranced by his stunning looks. Later, she calls him over to help her with her garden and then at her beach house. Thus starts a relationship that has friendship, affection and love put together in an inextricable, heartwarming mix.

For a casual observer there is nothing right with the relationship. The two are no match in physical appearance, mental capabilities, financial or social status. They bond on a purely emotional level.

When I started out reading the book, to me Mary seemed the sole ‘giver’ in the relationship. What could a mentally challenged boy offer a self-made, confident, affluent, educated woman? The only thing missing in her life, perhaps to an outsider, would be the love of family and friends but not to Mary. She fills her life with work, an extensive personal library of good books and good music. Mary Horton is satisfied, even pleased, with the way she has built her life.

Then along comes Tim. His heart winning innocence makes you love him and want to take care of him. He worms his way into Mary’s heart picking away at her defenses, setting her at ease, urging her to loosen up and awakening her dead heart without even being aware of it. He brings colour to her home as to her life. Her feelings for him change from pity to protectiveness to love.

He becomes an integral part of her life as she becomes his.

A word about Tim – he has been brought up to successfully handle his day-to-day life. He can travel on the bus on his own and earn his living as a construction worker. He is aware that he isn’t the ‘full-quid’, as he puts it. He has a naturally sunny disposition and the only thing that upsets him is when he cannot understand a joke or a remark – the feeling of being shut out because of his impaired brain. With Mary he never feels that.

In the end I think this was as equal a relationship as it can get. When Mary’s boss who’s the closest thing she has for a friend, suggests she marry him her response is, “How can I possibly marry a mentally retarded boy young enough to be my son? It’s criminal… I’m a sour, ugly old maid, no fit partner for Tim.” She doesn’t mince her words or spare her feelings.

His reply puts their relationship in perspective:

“…. I defy anyone to explain what one person sees in another…. Whatever you think you are, Tim thinks you are something quite different and much more desirable. You said you didn’t know what on earth he saw in you, that whatever it was you couldn’t see it yourself. Be grateful for that!”

Those were my absolute favourite lines.

Nope, this isn’t a story of romantic love but it most definitely is a love-story. To find someone to love you more than you do yourself – if that’s not love, what is?

PS: The book was made into a film starring Mel Gibson and Piper Laurie. I remember watching bits of it long ago and didn’t quite like it because the Tim I’d made up in my mind was way more handsome and younger too.

PPS: Read the book also for a host of wonderfully etched supporting characters and beautiful descriptions of Australia.


Linking up to ABC Wednesday. Do drop by and take a look at what others have come up with the letter T.

abc 17 (1)






25 Replies to “An unlikely love story”

  1. I don’t know the book but the story feels somewhat familiar… maybe i’ve seen something earlier, i don’t remember. But what you say about it makes me feel like i already mentioned. And indeed its hard to write about this…giving it the justice it deserves.

    Have a nice abc-day / -week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)


    1. That’s true of course but some matches don’t quite go down well with the accepted societal norms and that’s what makes them specially courageous.


      1. My first husband was 33 years older than me. We married when he was 64, one year older than the Mama. I didn’t think it was a brave thing to marry him. The Mama and a once-good friend did their best to discourage me from marrying Frank. Their rationale was that he was old and more at risk of dying sooner. Another friend said to me that anyone of any age is at risk of dying sooner. Perhaps the Mama and once-good friend were right. I’d do it again. Frank and I had 10 wonderful years together.


      2. That IS brave. Not everyone has the courage to follow their own heart Su-sieee! Mac. Cheers to you.


  2. A remarkable story! Thanks for your visit our former Queen, the mother of our King Willem Alexander, is named Beatrix.She was an excellent Queen. Beatrix Potter was a sweet lady with her head full of fairy-tales.
    So not all Beatrixes are as unpleasant as the one in the Harry Potter books.
    Wil, ABCWTeam.


    1. Ha ha Wil I’m sure they’re not – it’s just my association with the nasty one. Thanks for dropping by.


  3. This is one of the books I read as a dreamy teenager! I was blown away by its subtle romance and identified myself with the shy Mrs De Winter, passionately in love with Maxim. What a lovely romance it was! The movie was sadly a let-down for me, as it didn’t live up to the vivid pictures that had embedded themselves in my mind while reading the book.


  4. Ooo..I’m a sucker for love stories! and this one sure sounds very interesting OM !!
    Loved reading Su-siee’s comment above! It sure was a very brave thing to do..


  5. I haven’t read the book but I did watch the movie quite some time back. I remember being intrigued by the story line though feeling a wee bit uncomfortable as one does when reading about different relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This does sound like an unlikely love story. But then one cannot anticipate falling in love. I love how beautifully you described their relationship. So innocent and charming. Would love to read this one.😀

    Liked by 1 person

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