Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Continuing my aim to read widely, and try authors and genres that I wouldn't normally read, I read Eucalyptus by Murray Bail.
   Rarely is that a novel that is truly unique. So often writers mimic each other, whether or not it is unconscious, but they still stick to a writing style. Eucalyptus is so unique that it is a masterpiece standing on its own. Nothing comes near it.
   My expectation from the title was that the story was based in country Australia, and my expectation from the thickness of the novel that there would be a lot to the story. I was right on the first, and wrong on the second. Murray Bail seems like the kind of slowly moving man that watches everything. I picture him as an observer, taking everything in around him.

   The main character, the father, has been described as gruff and a captor. I don't see him that way. He is a typical Aussie bloke from that era - no expression, little communication, and clueless about women. He thought he was protecting his daughter, and he thought what worked for him would work for her.
   The daughter's fate is likened to a princess in a fairytale, but there is no evil in this novel. There is just realism, life and death.
   One of my expectations was that the story would be substantial, but it turned out that Murray Bail used the main story to weave in lots of little stories and anecdotes. There was also slabs of information about eucalypts, which got a bit boring, but also made me ashamed that I don't know more about our native trees. I skipped through a lot of the information, and the short stories, urgently seeking the next tail of the story line. I get like that - impatient - when I enjoy a story and the characters, and I just want the pace to move a bit faster. If the novel doesn't accommodate the pace, which this one didn't, then I make the pace up myself ... by skipping over whole sections.
   I need to read this novel again, more slowly, and savour it. It is a literary work, not popular fiction, and should be read accordingly.
   Be careful with your expectations when you read this one, and enjoy the beautiful imagery that Murray Bail creates.

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