The author's first novel, "Homesickness", won both the National Book Council Award for Australian Literature and the "Age" Book of the Year Award. His subsequent novel, "Holden's Performance", won the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction.
Murray Bail was born in Adelaide in 1941, and now lives in Sydney. His first novel, Homesickness, won the National Book Award for Australian Literature and the Melbourne Age Book of the Year Award. His subsequent novel, Holden's Performance, won the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction. His non-fiction includes an acclaimed monograph on the work of the painter Ian Fairweather.
Murray Bail's Eucalyptus is his first novel in more than a decade, and a welcome appearance it is. It is audacious in interesting ways: in a variation on a classical fairytale, a 19-year-old woman, Ellen Holland, living with her widowed father on a property in western NSW, is promised in marriage to the first man who can correctly identify the many hundreds of species of eucalypt which have obsessively planted on the land. It's a risky storytelling device (the destructive naivety of the father and reductive monomania of the principal suitor are dominant in the first part of the story) but Bail evokes a powerful landscape convincingly. The appearance in the narrative of a mysterious stranger who appears, with his magical stories, to lift our heroine from her increasing despondency about her future, transforms the novel. In engaging her in life's richness and possibilities through his tales, he rescues her, gives the novel an emotional and aesthetic depth, and provides a beautiful twist to the notion of storytelling itself, thereby pulling off a difficult narrative feat. David Gaunt is co-proprietor of Gleebooks, Glebe (NSW). C. 1998 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors
There is such delight in Eucalyptus, such strange and sly and
swerving humour. Murray Bail is the warmest and quick witted of
storytellers. You will never forget what is at the heart of this
book: one of the great and most surprising courtships in
It's a masterpiece. A novel of high seriousness and higher playfulness that will scarcely be matched this year for the dexterity of its wit -- Michael Hulse * Spectator *
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 * Observer *
Eucalyptus is that rare thing: a book whose author has succeeded in harnessing the seductive format of the fairy story and transforming it into something quite distinctive - neither fantastical nor realistic, but an elegant, humane, funny and wise journey to the interior of the human heart -- Jane Shilling * Sunday Telegraph *
Tall trees inspire tall tales. Eucalyptus makes most other novels seem weedy by comparison. It is a towering achievement * Time Out *