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Eucalyptus (Panther) [Paperback]

Murray Bail
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

20 May 1999 Panther
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (20 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860464955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860464959
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One of the great and most surprising courtships in literature" (Michael Ondaatje)

"Bail tells a story which is encrusted with delicious detail, and writes in an affecting mood of rapt tenderness. The book will haunt its readers long after more perfectly-finished fictions have faded from their memories" (Andrew Motion Observer)

"Tall trees inspire tall tales. Eucalyptus makes most other novels seem weedy by comparison. It is a towering achievement" (Mark Sanderson Time Out)

"His sentences have a perpetually off-balance wit which gives you life's jumble, its mystery, its unexplained compactness. You take in the humour first, but then they deepen and deepen. Buy the book. You won't have read anything like it" (Francis Spufford Evening Standard)

"A most unusual, enchanting work...a novel of most beguiling originality" (Carmen Callil Daily Telegraph)

From the Back Cover

On a remote estate in New South Wales a man named Holland promises his daughter Ellen's hand in marriage to whomever can correctly name the hundreds of species of eucalyptus tree that he has planted on his land. Ellen observes the challengers come to the estate, one after another, drawn by tales of her legendary beauty. She gradually sinks into despair. But one afternoon a mysterious young man appears among the gum trees and tells her stories of faraway lands.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a girl, a boy, and sunlit trees 3 Dec 2001
By A Customer
A delicately-crafted, beautifully written, modern fairytale, that just like the old-fashioned ones, you can read over and over. Interwoven with the main plot of a princess in a castle, are other stories, some only a page long, that seem like charming whimsical digressions but later you see they reinforce the threads of the story.
The descriptions of each eucalyptus throughout the book make you want to find out more about these trees - and indeed Australia itself. Bail's love story is almost as much with these trees as with Ellen and her suitors.
Despite the twist, I guessed the ending, and read the last twenty pages or so at breakneck speed at 3am, just to see if I was right. And happily I was - as all good fairytales should end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ethereal and magical 19 Mar 2000
Having been captivated, during a year in Australia, by the magical gum trees I was fascinated by this book. Murray Bail captures the ethereal quality of these beautiful trees perfectly in this almost fairytale novel. His love of gums comes through in virtually every line of the work and this more than compensates for the rather thin plot.However, the neat little twist at the end is very good - I certainly didn't anticipate it. On the whole a beautiful little book and well worth reading especially if, like me, you love the Australian Outback.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and gripping 15 April 2012
By Sue
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is not a thriller by any means, but this book grips you and makes you want to peek at the last page to make sure it will be alright in the end. It is a beautifully written, gentle read, but not at all light. I actually borrowed this from the library a few years back, and bought recently it as I wanted to re-read it. It did not disappoint second time around.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Franny
I adore this book. It is a joy to read and I think it has a great, quirky fairytale air to it. Australia and the Eucalyptus trees are characters too, just as much as Ellen and her father. The stories within the story really captivated me and the ending is wonderful!
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By A Customer
Well... If you're after a cozy page turner to read on the beach or in the bath, then maybe this isn't for you. However, it's clever and thought provoking without being pretentious or dull in any way. The characters are faintly sketched, but the tough Australian landscape is powerfully drawn; the parallels between the outback and the lives of the people who live there are intriguing and beautifully described. An impressive novel that managed to actually make me interested in the eucalyptus tree!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fairy tale, a love story 21 July 2012
Holland has planted his land with every variety of eucalyptus he can get his hands on - over five hundred in total. As his daughter reaches marriageable age, he decides that only the man who can correctly name all of his eucalypts will be good enough to take her hand. News of Ellen's beauty and Holland's challenge travel far and wide, but it is only when one suitor shows clear signs that he will accomplish this task that Ellen begins to worry - especially as she has recently met a stranger whose odd stories have somehow got under her skin...

This is, of course, a fairy tale. But the characters are more than archetypes, the landscape lives and breathes, and the story is compelling. Bail's down-to-earth narrative voice provides the necessary omniscient narrative, combining dry wit with a sometimes irritating pomposity, but highlighted with frequent glimpses of unforced poetry: "smooth stones lay under water like pears suspended in syrup."

Although Bail avoids anthropomorphicism, the eucalypts nonetheless play a large part in this book's appeal. You will learn a lot about Australia's native tree but instead of a dry text book, there are vivid character sketches of the numerous varieties, not to mention the tangential starting points they provide for the stranger's often odd or melancholy love stories.

There is an obvious element of unreality to the story, but it is so well told that it is easy to suspend belief. The first half of the book - Holland's marriage, the building of a new life in the outback, with eucalypts - was captivating.
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When Holland's wife dies in childbirth, he buys a farm in New South Wales and begins to collect hundreds of different species of eucalypts. His beautiful daughter Ellen is admired by many suitors, but, as in all fairy tales, they have to pass a test in order to marry her.

One man is almost successful in passing the test, but then another man charms his way into Ellen's life, beguiling her with stories and tales.

This is a charming novel, original, bizarre and inventive. I love Australia, having lived there for a short time, so I enjoyed this novel very much.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars book club member
A modern fairy tale which provoked a very good discussion at our book club. Is there a place still for a fairy tale in children's lives?
Published on 5 Jun 2012 by andrew
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguingly different
This is a modern day fairy story, for which you have to suspend some disbelief, but once you do you find it enjoyable. Read more
Published on 24 April 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating woodland fairy tale.
I have paid more attention on a second reading to the details of the story, i.e. that Holland got the money to buy his estate by taking out insurance on his wife [acquired through... Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Draws one in like the sent of Eucalypts on a hot dry day.
This story reminds me of the fragrance of dry Eucalypt leaves on a hot afternoon. It evokes the woody stillness of rural Australia in the years after WWII (reference El Alamein... Read more
Published on 29 Jun 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars Mostly padding. The story could be told in one chapter.
Disappointing, and a waste of a wonderful idea. The book, part fable, is mostly padding - the author must have worked from an encyclopaedia about eucalyptus trees. Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2000 by
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd yet compelling
The cover of the book does not invite you you come inside and you think - 'Heavy!' but actually the book is a good read and the stories within the story are great. Read more
Published on 12 Sep 1999
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