As we waved goodbye to Offspringette this week after her sojourn here post Oz, it seems apt to mention Eucalyptus by Murray Bail.
It would seem I'm about eight years behind with my reading and everyone else will have read this at least twice.I will certainly read it again because it's one of those books with so much in it to miss first time round.
I hardly need to go into detail because I'm sure you all know it, but it's the most elusive and beautifully woven story of one man's quest for the National Eucalyptus collection to die for and the seemingly impossible challenge he then sets any suitor who wishes his daughter's hand in marriage; name all those trees.
I had quite thought a eucalyptus was, well a eucalyptus, silly me, there are hundreds of different ones and it is around the botanical names of these species that each story is woven, part fable, part fairy story and making a magical and almost surreal whole.
The sense of place is acute and tangible, laden with the mystery and ambiguity of the tree itself and I loved it.Often, as I read, I was carried along in a great tide of unknowing, there were links I wasn't making I know, but that didn't seem to matter, this is writing with an abundant depth to it and I know I have barely scratched the surface of this book.
It seems an impossibility to write a book around one type of tree but Murray Bail constantly invests the eucalyptus with great depths of personality,
"..the eucalypt stands apart, solitary, essentially undemocratic..a pale ragged beauty...an egotistical tree...it draws attention to itself "
He has peopled his landscape with trees as characters so effectively that I'm thinking I should now go out and talk to ours, especially since bookhound has "trimmed" it, it's probably weeping.
A fabulous read that has left me with that wonderful sense of negative capability that some books just do and which I love.
Sometimes I don't want everything cut and dried and explained.
I think this might just have paved the way for my read of David Malouf.