Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Eucalyptus" by Murray Bail

I picked up this book secondhand at Adelaide's Pop Up Bookshop and decided to read it as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2015.It is a really unusual story. In an outback town a widowed man who lives on a large property with his beautiful daughter Ellen is obsessed with Eucalyptus trees. He has collected and planted hundreds of different varieties on his property, from common ones to extremely rare ones. He makes the decision that in order to win the hand of his daughter, the potential suitor must correctly name every single Eucalyptus tree on his property. Until that point his daughter will remain with him, unwed, sort of like an Australian Rapunzel story. Lots of different characters test their luck, but the task is pretty much impossible.

Each 'chapter' is named after a type of Eucalyptus, and sometimes the stories in particular chapters don't seem to be particularly connected, or may be connected to some characteristic of the tree the chapter is named after in an abstract kind of way. The writing style is full of imagery, sometimes beautiful and sometimes strange and harsh ("he saw the woman he hardly knew had haemorrhaged gentleness"), and yet other times quite dry and descriptive of something that doesn't seen particularly consequential.

While a particularly persistent suitor slowly progresses across the property naming trees with her father, a different love story and series of vignettes unfold from the daughter's viewpoint. While parts of this book seemed deadly slow and hard to figure out the connections, other parts were quite poignant and beautiful, and the ending of the book is one of the most touching, and worth reading the book to reveal and appreciate the ending. I won't say more in case it spoils the book for anyone, but it was definitely a worthwhile book to read for anyone wanting to read Australian literature.

Started reading: 4th February 2015
Finished: 24th February 2015.
My score: 7/10

Aussie author challenge stats: Male author, New to me, genre: romance/literary 

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