Murray Bail, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (264p) ISBN 978-0-374-14857-7
Bail is a sort of Australian magic realist, and if that sounds like a contradiction in terms, it is a fair summary of the rather disconcerting nature of the novel in question. The eucalyptus is Australia's emblematic tree, existing in hundreds of varieties, some extremely rare, and it is Bail's fancy that a man called Holland, living on a remote estate in New South Wales, planted on his land a collection of all such trees known to man. Having performed this odd, obsessive act, he then set, for his beautiful and only daughter Ellen, one of those traps essential to fairy tales: only a man who could correctly name each tree in his vast collection could have her hand in marriage. The problem was that Ellen didn't much care for the man who looked as if he was going to win; meanwhile another man came wandering through the trees and started spinning her wondrous tales. Bail's aim in this extremely odd book is elusive. Each of the many short chapters has a eucalypt heading, and the book is full of quaint touches of lore and fey observations about nature, landscape and art, not to mention a number of short, sometimes tantalizing tales. But the net effect, for all of some pretty writing and some gauzy atmospherics, is literary in the worst sense: coy, pretentious and with more than a touch of self-satisfaction. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-0-676-97237-5
Paperback - 255 pages - 978-0-312-42731-3
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Compact Disc - 978-1-74285-350-5
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-86046-495-9
Hardcover - 978-0-676-97177-4
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-0-15-600781-8
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