Sunday, 20 March 2011

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

Several years ago, a good friend in Australia sent me a package of Bush Tea.  When I opened it, the pack contained a number of bags of black tea and a bunch of eucalyptus leaves.  The idea being to brew a pot of tea and add a leaf to the pot.  These were about 4 inch long skinny leaves.  I have no idea what type of eucalyptus they were from, but there sure were aromatic.  I loved the tea.  No one else in my house did, so I didn't have to share.

Shortly after relating this story to my sister, so sent me a copy of the book Eucalyptus by Murray Bail.  my mouth watered the whole time I was reading it, wishing I had a pot of bush tea sitting beside me.

This is the story of Holland and his lovely daughter Ellen.  When Ellen is young, Holland moves to a rural area in Australia and for some un-explained reason, he begins to plant assorted Eucalyptus.  By the time Ellen is of marriagable age, there are over 500 different eucalypts growing on the property.  One day Holland announces that his daughter will marry the man who can correctly name all the eucalypts growing on his property.  This is a challenge taken up by men from near and far. 

While this may seem an unusual method of determining the suitability of a potential mate,  people have used worse.  Parents have arranged marriages when their children are but infants.  Others defer to a matchmaker etc..

The story is also filled with short, unfinished tales.  These are told by one of the suitors.  I likened them to the trees.  There are all yet unfinished; they have much growing and unfolding to do.  Ellen listened to all these tales and was left wondering, how did they end, who were all those people and how did they relate to each other.   I still don't really understand the inclusion of all those tales.

I did enjoy reading about the variety of the eucalypts.  Some as tiny of shrubs and others some of the largest trees on earth.  Colours that ranges a whole spectrum and truncks that could be as smooth as a baby's skin or a rough and ragged as a stone field.

It seems to me that Holland related better to his trees than he did to his daughter.   Neither of them were much  for conversation.    I enjoyed reading this unusual story even if I didn't understand all the parts of it.  I am left wanting to know more about eucalyptus. 

Eucalyptus was the 1999 Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book.

This is my 31st selection for the  Read, Remember, Recommend Fiction Challenge hosted by Rachelle at


Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

I'm not sure about this one but it sounds interesting. I'm going to have to look into it.

Darlene said...

This sounds so different but very intriguing.