Friday 15 December 2017

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

 Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

In a remote part of New South Wales, a farmer called Holland promises his daughter Ellen's hand in marriage to  the man who can name the hundreds of species of eucalyptus trees that he has planted on his land. What follows is a fascinating meditation on the various species of eucalyptus (and I for one had no idea there were so many!) and on Ellen's state of mind as she watches various men come along and try to win her by pursuing a test set purely by her father.

Bail's writing is reminiscent of the late, great Patrick White (Australian winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature) though without the seemingly wilful incomprehensibility that White sometimes injected into his work. So many lovely sentences and phrases here, some of which are intriguing:

'Anyway, don't you think the compliant pine is associated with numbers, geometry, the majority while the eucalypt stands apart, solitary, essentially undemocratic?'

The reader feels a great deal of sympathy for Ellen in this modern day fairy tale and hopes that somehow she will eventually have some say in her romantic future. The reader is likely to find Holland's attitude to his daughter's future inexplicable, which may undermine the enjoyment of the novel for some.

(In real life therefore, it's great to know that Australia, in a commitment to relationship equality, has just become the 25th country to recognise same sex marriage).

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail, published by Penguin

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


Anonymous said...

I love Eucalypts - what a strange tale! It was terrific finally getting marriage equality here in Australia - seemed like it would never happen, and then it did before Christmas.

Barry Smith said...

Just happened to see your comment on one of my my haibuns in Haibun Today. Thank you, it was a great experience dancing with the sooty albatross. There was another experience in the yacht on the way home. I must turn it into a haibun soon.
I've also just looked at this blog - liked it. I do an occasional blog too - about anything that takes my fancy really. You can see it at barrysinparadise.blogspot
And I enjoyed Eucalyptus when I read it
Best wishes, Barry Smith

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Gabrielle - yes I was very happy for Australians then!

Hi Barry- Thanks for visiting, I enjoyed reading your blog too but can't comment as I don't have Google plus and your blog doesn't seem to allow other ways of commenting....