Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

This is the third book I've read for the 2010 Aussie Author Challenge, and I had hesitated to start it because I had heard virtually nothing about it or the author.  Now I wish I'd read it sooner.  I still adore my Tim Winton, but I think I have a new almost favorite Australian author! 

First off, the word "subtle" kept coming to mind as I read this.  It's a simple story really, but beautifully told with a sort of sweetness to it, as well incidents of sharp wit that made me laugh out loud several times.   This is not a character driven novel, as the main characters seem sort of vague in hindsight.  The real focus is the plot, which is unusual without being pretentious or overwrought.  The story involves a widowed man who moves with his daughter to a ranch near a small town in Australia, bordered by a river.  He restores the property and begins planting hundreds of Eucalyptus, with almost no two alike.  His daughter grows up a beauty, and he decides that the only man who could be proved worthy of her would know the proper Latin name for each variety of tree on his land.  Thus the novel moves at an easy, river-like pace as suitors come and go.  We learn more about the daughter through her reactions than any actual description of her personally.  A few things happen seem a bit 'off' as read, but these are subtle foreshadowings of future events.

The descriptions of the location is beautiful.  All the more poignant to me as the part of California that I live in has a huge amount of non-native Eucalyptus that I've always despised.  I'm kind of liking them more now!   The simple lifestyle of growth and cultivation, and everyday hard work is appealing.  The writer's style is so subtle that much of the meaning is not said but implied.  He shows he's a great writer by exactly what he doesn't write! 

It's a great book that I highly recommended...


  1. oh you've done three already, you are so good! i've only done one so far, better get on it i think :-)

    this one is on my list for the challenge too, i'm glad to hear it's a good one.

  2. I lived in California for five years, and looked down upon the non-native Eucalpytus as well. Especially when I learned that no native birds would nest in them, no animals eat their leaves, which were so tough they didn't even decay into the soil to feed other plants like most dead leaves do!

    I would like to read a book that showed me the beauty of Eucalyptus in its proper place!

  3. I am glad that you loved it! The descriptions of the trees are definitely beautiful, it was so well written. The scenery is so accurately Australian. Coming from Australia I can assure you that that is what country Australia is like.

    Heres a link to my review

    I didn't like the book quite as much as you, but I think perhaps my expectations of it were too high