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3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,226 Ratings  ·  254 Reviews
On a property in New South Wales, a man named Holland lives with his daughter Ellen. As years pass and Ellen grows into a beautiful young woman, her father announces his decision: she will marry the first man who can name all the species of the eucalypt, down to the last tree.
Paperback, 264 pages
Published May 20th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Laura I wasn't as much puzzled by this book as I was by the positive praises concerning this book... To me it seemed as if the author was experimenting with…moreI wasn't as much puzzled by this book as I was by the positive praises concerning this book... To me it seemed as if the author was experimenting with a "modern" and "edgy" writing style, but the story ended up being extremely dull... I wanted to drop reading it at least 3 times, but sticked to it because my last year's promise was to read at least one book each month, and this was the only book I read that month...(less)
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Feb 16, 2013 Ceecee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Australians? Botanists?
Recommended to Ceecee by: that misleading blurb
There go those blurbs again, tricking me into thinking that I could actually enjoy the book.

"Best courtship story", it said. "New York Times Notable Book of the Year", it said.

Holland acquires a land, and then eventually becomes obsessed with planting eucalyptus trees in it. His daughter, Ellen, grows up to be a beauty, and he decides he will let the man who can name all species of eucalypti in his land marry his daughter. Dozens of suitors tried to no avail. Until Ellen meets a mysterious man u
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 02, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eucalyptus is a fairy tale and contains all the elements you would expect in a fairy tale, recast in a rural Australian setting – there’s mythical beauty, a princess trapped in her castle, suitors from distant lands and an enchanted forest. Whether it’s the Australian setting or Bail’s cleverly created characters, the story comes across as wholly believable (which in itself is magical).

Each chapter is named after a species of eucalypt and includes a string of short, intricate and seemingly incon
Lyn Elliott
Jan 2015:
I've recently read this for the third time and relished the opportunity to slow down and enjoy Bail's language, and the slow and intricate windings of the multiple stories which make up this treasure of a book.
The main narrative line is a clever and gentle adaptation of a traditional folk tale form transformed in its relocation to an isolated Australian farm. The seemingly impossible quest set by a father for suitors of his daughter is to name all the Eucalyptus trees he has planted on
Jun 09, 2013 Angela marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-ebook
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This peculiar, unique book really appealed to me, and when I finished, I considered starting it all over again.

It's a physically short book (I don't know how many words), but the mix of short anecdotes, little stories and botanical information that pop up unexpectedly actually don't interrupt the flow of the main story, they add depth.

I'm never going to remember all the interesting bits - I WILL have to read it again someday.

Disclaimer: I have lived among the eucalypts of NSW for most of my ad
Jun 18, 2007 Suzanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
2 hour trip to botanical gardens: fun and interesting.
200 page book about every eucalyptus known to man: dreadful.

woman allowing father to marry her off to stranger who wins an insufferable tree-naming contest... a fairy tale: quaint. modern society: substantially irritating.
Oct 05, 2015 Lydia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really surprised by this book.

I had to read it for a book club, and I wasn't really holding any high hopes for it. But it's beautiful. The writing is incredible. It's lyrical, it's magical, and I found myself highlighting so many passages and wishing I had written them.

This book is distinctly Australian - it talks about gum trees and eucalyptus trees in a breath-taking way. If you're looking for some distinctly Australian literature that has very evocative, rhythmic writing, this will be a
Nov 20, 2011 Ben rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing else, I guess Eucalyptus lives up to its title. It’s about a man whose wife dies while giving birth to their daughter. The man collects the life insurance, moves to a small town in western New South Wales, and plants eucalypts… lots of them. Apparently there are over 200 specie of this plant. Once his daughter is of a marriageable age he makes an Atalantan (as in the golden apple/race myth) deal to marry her off to the first suitor who can name all the various eucalypts on his land. That ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eucalyptus is the third novel by prize-winning Australian author, Murray Bail. A man called Holland comes into money and buys a property in NSW, west of Sydney. The previous owners spent much time clearing paddocks (“On the curvaceous back paddocks great gums slowly bleached and curled against the curve as trimmings of fingernails. Here and there bare straight trunks lay scattered and angled like a catastrophe of derailed carriages.”), but Holland soon changed that.

His young daughter, Ellen, ca
Heather Pearson
Mar 24, 2011 Heather Pearson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: borrowed from my sister Shelley
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
Dec 31, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listening
I listened to this book. I really enjoyed listening to it, but I don't think I would have kept up with it had I read it. It did remind me of the beauty of the Eucalyptus and that I need a few more up in the backyard. The Corymbia (Eucalyptus) ficifolia is flowering around Wodonga at the moment; I think I will have to plant a few.

Years ago, I'm talking 1989 so my memory is a little sketchy, I travelled a few countries with a couple of mates. We spent 2 days in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. I don't recall
May 20, 2010 Shannon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I spent most of this book wishing I had someone there to explain it to me. As it was, I think I got about a fourth of what the author was trying to say. Bail doesn't ever just say something, first he tells a story or gives a detailed description of a specific eucalyptus tree, and expects you to extrapolate. When he was telling stories they were odd; a man who spends his life planting every kind of eucalyptus, a girl who is beautiful because she is covered in moles... And like all of the stories ...more
Ben Eldridge
Mar 01, 2014 Ben Eldridge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Possessing an ethereal, fairytale quality, this novel is simply amazing. Reflections on Australia, love, identity, classification, art and literature are balanced with such nuance as to make this a fascinating piece of work. Intensely, and intelligently, structured novel working from a place of playful irony, but maintaining a hefty emotional punch. Even the accusations of a patriarchal framework (the novel's central plot element is a father giving his daughter away to a man who can meet his ext ...more
Angela Young
Sep 04, 2012 Angela Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend of mine recommended this book to me because she knows just how much I love stories within stories. And I loved it. It's a fable, or a fairy story, but in the real sense (not airy-fairy but psychologically accurate about the way we are which is, of course, the reason so-called fairy tales have lasted down the ages). And the fact that the young woman's suitor has to earn his right to ask for her hand by learning the names and attributes of one hundred different kinds of eucalyptus makes f ...more
Aug 31, 2010 Roberto rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Normally fables are compelling because they have a sort of magic that rivets us. In this case , soon enough ( too soon) the magic runs out and what we thought it was an interesting premise ( to win the hand of a freckled beauty , the suitor has to name all the eucalypts planted in her fathers property) becomes a dull tale. Such a pity. I was really expecting something more from this novel... ...more
Laura Walin
Sep 14, 2012 Laura Walin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not an easy read. In the beginning I did not appreciate the style jumping here and there and requiring an immense amount of concentration to follow the story. But somehow it all came together in the middle, when the stories took over and were better woven into the main plot. And thank you Murray Bail for the ending, anything else would have been a disappointment.
Jun 17, 2012 Ruthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautifully written. However, I imagine that the aspects of this book that I found whimsical and charming may seem dull and arduous to those that are not biologist or lovers of the Australian landscape. If you are neither of these, I invoke you to work past these to find an enchanting story. I particularly loved the stories told within the main story.
Nov 12, 2012 Meghan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author obviously knows nothing of women. I personally do not know of any women who stand around naked holding their breasts all the time. I mean all the time!! And what is this fascination with peeing? I mean really! I did not like this book at all! And by the end you would think that maybe the ending would even be a bit satisfying? Nope!
Jul 04, 2012 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were many lovely things about this book, and it certainly takes the reader to a place (Australian outback) very effectively. However I found the female character to be tiresomely passive ....and a real drag on the plot, and so the three stars.
Donna LaValley
More a myth or fairy tale than a novel, this work sometimes has a dreamy quality; sometimes it is a text on eucalypt trees. In Australia a father gains great lands and plants 1000’s of eucalyptus trees, at least one of every known variety. He brings here his only child, a motherless daughter who happens to be the fairest in the land. The one to win her hand must name each tree. Among the many suitors are a methodical man and a mysterious stranger. There is a lingering illness that perhaps only s ...more
May 06, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
A novel of courtship in the Australian outback. I'm always leery of books that include a reading group guide. The publisher is obviously targeting book clubs, which are all the rage these days. But I had remembered this book getting very good reviews, and Murray Bail being a generally respected writer. When I picked this book up for free I decided to give it a try. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I can see why it hasn't been a hit with book groups. Eucalyptus is a difficult book to get into. Bail o ...more
Jan 11, 2014 Bee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read it ages ago.
I seem to recall it was well written but the book had heaps of botanical info about eucalypts.
As a horticulturalist I liked this.
But it was a bit dry at times for a romance.
Perhaps the author wanted to lift it out of that genre?
But it was ok. I remember little about it though so it wasn't great or even good or I'd have it tagged in the grey matter.
Feb 23, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like part field guide, part fairytale...or maybe fable. What would be the lesson here???Maybe it would be to choose your own husband, don't allow others to have so much control over such a personal decision?
I did enjoy the story for the most part. It reminded me of a old friend who lives in Australia. Many places were familiar to me(a Yank, as he called all Americans)simply because of the many stories he told about people and places he had seen. Makes me wonder if Australians are all story
Somewhat disappointing because it had the potential to be a much better book. The premise is original and intriguing and the author’s prose style is elegant and a pleasure to read. The many inserted stories added a lot of interest and some of them are fine stories in their own right. There were various interesting philosophical reflections. But on the whole I think it could have been better. The pacing was just that bit too slow, on the last hundred pages or so I felt it was really dragging. Ell ...more
Jeffrey Milloy
Let me start with an excerpt.

Here he could look at her closely. He began wandering among the many different birthmarks and beauty spots. As for Ellen, her questions seemed to direct him towards her state of dress. For a moment, without looking down, Ellen wasn't sure whether she was being buttoned or unbottoned.

Came his voice, 'When the breeder of canaries knocked on Miss Kirschner's door he had dandruff on his shoulders. She had a squint in one eye---something like that. And she had the excruci
A.B. Shepherd
If you want to learn a ton of information about eucalyptus trees this is the novel for you. If you like novels that are written in a poetic fashion this is the novel for you.

Unfortunately, I am neither of those and did not really enjoy this award winning novel. When I got past all the eucalyptus information it was ok, but so many of the stories told to Ellen by her suitor were incomplete and unsatisfying, which pretty much sums up my feelings on this book.
Feb 07, 2009 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A highly original work, on the surface a modern Australian fable, (concerning a father who offers his daughter's hand to the first man who can name all the Eucalypts on his property) but with tremendous depth and subtlety. Murray Bail is a master story teller. Complex and intriguing to the very last page.
S.K. Levy
What an interesting read, to say the least. I enjoyed it very much, but it is a very singular book. The way in which it is written is amusing and pedagogic, as I learnt a hell of a lot about Eucalyptus'! I had to study plants at uni - I'm an animal and veterinary bioscientist, many animals eat plants - so it kind of took me back to those boring lectures on peduncles and petioles and calyx's. But the link between the trees and events in people's lives, or emotions or observations was extraordinar ...more
50 a year
A mysterious romance amongst the trees: 'Eucalyptus' by Murray Bail.

The premise ‘complete the challenge to win fair maiden’ is a bit outdated and Ellen spends a fair amount of time weeping about the fact that she can’t choose her future husband for herself. Bail does a decent job of wrapping up the idea in pretty descriptions about life and fate and Ellen’s wistful acceptance of the decision made by her father, whom she trusts – but that concept remains firmly at the heart of the story. For that
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