I opened the ‘Add New Post’ link on WordPress.com and realised that I couldn’t remember what was the last book I finished reading. I had to go check my Read list on Google Docs – aha! Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. I hope this memory lapse doesn’t reflect too badly on this book, because Eucalyptus is quite beautifully written. It is quite an unusual book – an ode to the eucalyptus tree of sorts. Holland has grown every type of eucalyptus tree on his property, and has set a challenge in order for suitors to win the hand of his beautiful bespeckled daughter Ellen – they have to name every tree he owns. Of course all of them fail, but along comes a serious contender, Mr Cave, a eucalyptus expert himself. To him, it’s not about the prize at the end but about the challenge. He gets closer and closer as each day passes, and as each tree is named, Ellen grows despondent – that is, until she meets the mysterious stranger who wanders her father’s land and tells her these seemingly random, but rather enchanting stories. So on the one hand, you have Mr Cave naming all the trees, and on the other, the stranger charming Ellen with his stories. They’re kind of waltzing away in two different directions, in the shade of the eucalyptus trees.
I never realised that there are so many different types of eucalypti (didn’t realise that that was the plural form either!). This book is kind of like a love song to this species of tree.
Eucalyptus deserves a good solid read though, and I sadly wasn’t able to provide it with that at this point of time. It definitely deserves a second go, perhaps some years down the road, a comfy chair, a glass of wine and a view of the Margaret River in Western Australia. Under the shade of a eucalyptus tree of course.