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3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  3,671 Ratings  ·  285 Reviews
The gruff widower Holland has two possessions he cherishes above all others:

his sprawling property of eucalyptus trees and his ravishingly beautiful daughter, Ellen.

When Ellen turns nineteen Holland makes an announcement: she may marry only the man who can correctly name the species of each of the hundreds of gum trees on his property.

Ellen is uninterested in the many s
Paperback, 264 pages
Published September 2nd 1999 by Mariner Books (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)

Community Reviews

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Feb 08, 2016 Phrynne rated it really liked it
I found this to be an enjoyable modern day fairy tale written in a rather unusual way. The prose is outstandingly beautiful and needs to be read slowly and carefully but at the same time the central story demands the reader's attention and there is an urgency to get to the end and find out what happens! Then the author introduces a character who tells stories. These are necessary to the overall story but at the same time I was a little annoyed at having to take constant diversions. But then ther ...more
Oct 05, 2012 Ceecee rated it did not like it
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.
Dec 22, 2008 Angela marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-ebook
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Nov 20, 2011 Ben rated it did not like it
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
Jul 02, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2007 Suzanne rated it did not like it
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.
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
Feb 25, 2016 HomeInMyShoes rated it really liked it
A very nice read. The story almost gets lost in the stories. A book like Damascus Nights by Rafik Schami where the stories teach us about the character. I enjoyed this a lot.
Feb 07, 2016 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
This was a reread for me and I loved it just as much as I did some years ago when I first read it. Funny and charming - it is entrancing. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Oct 05, 2015 Lydia rated it really liked it
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
Heather Pearson
Mar 03, 2011 Heather Pearson rated it really liked it
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
Aug 12, 2012 David rated it liked it
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
Feb 11, 2014 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
May 20, 2010 Shannon rated it liked it
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
Angela Young
Sep 04, 2012 Angela Young rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2012 Meghan rated it did not like it
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!
Laura Walin
Sep 04, 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
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.
Aug 18, 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
Jul 04, 2012 Julia rated it liked it
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.
Deborah Sheldon
Have I just been pranked? For tree-lovers only.
Anthony Scully
Jan 28, 2017 Anthony Scully rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wanted to read this for years. Started many times and abandoned it, baulking at the copious detail that Bail includes about various species of eucalyptus trees. This time I pushed through until I latched onto the narrative, the story of a father who plans to find his daughter a husband. This time around I actually found Bail's long-winded descriptions of eucalypts - via the author and the main character - fascinating. And I loved the small town characters, with their suspicions at first of Holla ...more
Donna LaValley
Oct 26, 2011 Donna LaValley rated it it was ok
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
Catherine Davison
Oct 14, 2014 Catherine Davison rated it liked it
After taking much longer than it usually takes me to read a book of this length I've finally finished it and am glad I persisted. There were times when I found it so slow moving I was bored to the point of wanting to discard it. I appreciate Bail's poetic style and wonderful observations of both our landscape and characters. I got that it was referencing fairy tales so I forgave Bail the submissive female character, normally I'd just find that cringeworthy but I suspended my disbelief so as to e ...more
Feb 19, 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
A.B. Shepherd
May 08, 2011 A.B. Shepherd rated it it was ok
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.
Frances Nielsen
May 25, 2015 Frances Nielsen rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016-read
Two stars, because I liked the way it ended, which was how I hoped it would end, and I liked the structure of the stories within the story. Otherwise I would've given it one star. I didn't like how passive Ellen is, nor how Ellen and her father didn't really know each other.

The quote on the cover of the book says: "you will never forget what is at the heart of this book".. I am not sure what is at the heart of this book.
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Murray Bail (born 22 September 1941) is an Australian writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction.

He was born in Adelaide, South Australia. He has lived most of his life in Australia except for sojourns in India (1968–70) and England and Europe (1970–74). He currently lives in Sydney.

He was trustee of the National Gallery of Australia from 1976 to 1981, and wrote a book on Australian artist Ia
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“Descriptions of dreams have a dubious place in storytelling. For these are dreams which have been imagined--'dreamed up', to be slotted in. A story can be made up. How can a dream be made up? By not rising of its own free will from the unconscious it sets a note of falsity, merely illustrating something 'dream-like', which may be why dream descriptions within stories seen curiously meaningless. To avoid glazing over, best then to turn the page quickly.” 0 likes
“Some people, some nations, are permanently in shade. Some people cast a shadow. Lengths of elongated darkness precede them, even in church or when the sun is in, as they say, mopped up by the dirty cloth of the could. A puddle of dark forms around their feet. It's very pine like. The pine and darkness are one. Eucalypts are unusual in this respect: set pendulously their leaves allow see-through foliage which in turn produces a frail patterned sort of shade, if at all. Clarity, lack of darkness-these might be called 'eucalyptus qualities'.” 0 likes
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