If you can get past the nauseatingly long descriptions of landscape at the start (why do so many Australian authors feel compelled to do this???), there is actually a lot to like about Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus.
Holland is a Eucalyptus enthusiast. He has planted hundreds of different species on his property. I guess he really only loves to things – his Eucalyptus and his beautiful, speckled daughter Ellen. Ellen’s beauty is legendary, and to stave off suitors, he promises to marry her only to the man that can name every Eucalypt on the property.
One day, one man arrives who can – Mr Crow. Initially, Ellen is indifferent to the man, but soon begins to resent the position her father has put her in. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger also arrives, who goes among the Eucalypts touching each and telling Ellen a story suggested by the tree. These are love stories, stories about fathers and daughters; beautiful and haunting. Ellen falls in love with the stories, and her barely spoken desperation begins to take its toll on her body…
The tree stories are the most beautiful part of the novel if you ask me, and not much goes into the skeleton story. But these are good enough to carry the rest along.
I listened to an audio of this, which was really quite fitting, given that much of the novel is about oral storytelling. It’s definitely worth a try.