The Scent of Eucalyptus by John Dillon
ISBN 978-1-9999075-6-3/220 pp/€15.95
“The Scent of Eucalyptus”, set in Ethiopia in the early 1960s, is both a roguish coming of age novel and a snapshot of a world on the cusp of change. Funny, touching and a joy to read, it tells the tale of Luke La Touche, a young man freshly graduated from Oxford who is loath to settle down immediately into a traditional career. Instead, he heads for Africa to seek new experiences and a reprieve from the anxieties of Cold War Britain.
Taking up an English teaching position in Addis Ababa, with only his influential cousin James to guide him around his new pastures, he has experiences a plenty. He meets the beautiful Berhane, who introduces him to sex, and he then becomes smitten with Caroline, a fiercely independent British woman. He begins playing with a Jazz band in a local club and explores Ethiopia from the Awash to the ancient cities of Axum and Gondar.
Luke is also intrigued and slowly drawn into the dangerous world of the flamboyant Yohannis, his former fellow-student from Oxford. The young Ethiopian aristocrat is part of an emerging new generation, seeking to make changes across Africa. This encounter will, in turn, change Luke’s life forever.
Nobel Prize Winner Seamus Heaney has said of “The Scent of Eucalyptus” that, “the cast of characters – the denizens of the local scene – are wonderfully observed. Ethiopia … as landscape and history, is solidly ‘there’.
John Dillon has penned and edited many academic books in his work as professor of the classics both in the University of California, Berkeley, and Trinity College, Dublin. This is his first work of fiction.