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In a Sunburned Country Paperback – May 15, 2001
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Bryson, who could make a pile of dirt compelling--and yes, Australia is mostly dirt--finds no shortage of curiosities. When he isn't dodging Portuguese man-of-wars or considering the virtues of the remarkable platypus, he visits southwest Gippsland, home of the world's largest earthworms (up to 12 feet in length). He discovers that Australia, which began nationhood as a prison, contains the longest straight stretch of railroad track in the world (297 miles), as well as the world's largest monolith (the majestic Uluru) and largest living thing (the Great Barrier Reef). He finds ridiculous place names: "Mullumbimby Ewylamartup, Jiggalong, and the supremely satisfying Tittybong," and manages to catch a cricket game on the radio, which is like
listening to two men sitting in a rowboat on a large, placid lake on a day when the fish aren't biting; it's like having a nap without losing consciousness. It actually helps not to know quite what's going on. In such a rarefied world of contentment and inactivity, comprehension would become a distraction.
"You see," Bryson observes, "Australia is an interesting place. It truly is. And that really is all I'm saying." Of course, Bryson--who is as much a travel writer here as a humorist, naturalist, and historian--says much more, and does so with generous amounts of wit and hilarity. Australia may be "mostly empty and a long way away," but it's a little closer now. --Rob McDonald --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
This is a terrific read. Bryson has, mercifully, gone well and truly off the beaten track to explore many different parts of Australia - the cities, the outback, the tropics, and everything else in between. But as ever with a Bill Bryson book, more than the destination itself, the pleasure is in getting there. Laugh-out-loud moments abound, though perhaps more in the restrained way of "A Walk in the Woods", as opposed to the guffaw-fest that is "Neither Here Nor There".
You don't have to be at all familiar with Australia to appreciate and enjoy this book. I am, sadly, one of those Australians to which Bryson refers that has never seen Ayers Rock / Uluru myself. In fact, I have never been to the majority of places Bryson visits. It was a revelation for me, too.
Bryson once again recounts numerous historical and trivial anecdotes which, together with his unique view of the world, elevate this book well above the mere travel genre. This is insightful, this is informative, this is FUNNY.
Perversely, my only criticism is perhaps that he likes Australia a little too much. God knows, I'm so pleased that he does. However, he is, I believe, at his best when distressed.Read more ›
Bill's take on the Australian Prime Minister of the day (a small, invisible and colourless entity) is a reasonably brave thing to say in a sense - an outsider commenting on a political identity invites derision, but he captures the essence of the man so well.
The other special moment for me is his discovery of cricket on the radio...when all other stations fade out to static, there is the mighty game. Somehow or other, despite writing nonsense words, he captures the rhythm and cadences of radio cricket commentary PERFECTLY. To me, cricket on the radio is as much about summer as cicadas, running under the sprinkler and crackling heat. Beautifully pulled off!
A good read, and for the first time since leaving school I actually engaged with some of the stories of explorers! A wry but never cynical tone makes for an entertaining read. I am glad he pays "homage" to that other good 'outsider's book' - "Sydney" by Jan Morris.
Bill Bryson covers much of the same terrain as the other great US travel writer, Paul Theroux, and seems to meet as many odd or intersting characters. Bill's disposition, however, makes him far more open to LIKING a place, and enormously less self-absorbed.
But unlike most people, I like Bill Bryson best when he's NOT trying to be funny, and my appreciation of this book is mostly due to the great amount of very interesting information presented.
Bill Bryson amazes you with loads of information about the geology, the animal life, the plants and insects, the history, the statistics, the folklore, etc., etc. The many dangers: poisonous snakes, poisonous insects, poisonous jellyfish, crocodiles, sharks, and rip currents - they're all out to get you. The inhospitable deserts, the beautiful beaches, the huge distances; Bill Bryson gives you a feeling of what it's all like.
The book goes into detail about many aspects of Australian life that are fairly unknown, including the discovery (and re-discovery) of Australia, the settlement by British prisoners, the early expeditions to explore the interior, the gold rushes, the outlaws, and the devastation caused by rabbits and other imported animals and plants. Bill Bryson talks about the many unusual animal species found only in Australia, including giant earthworms that grow up to 1 meter (and can be stretched to 4 meters) and the platypus, a cross between a reptile and a mammal. He talks about Australians and the Australian society, and the situation regarding the native people, the aboriginals.
Bill Bryson doesn't cover all of Australia from the geographical point of view, and the parts he does cover are somewhat random.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Terrific book. A travel book whihc makes you feel you are actually experiencing Australia.Published 1 day ago by Walker D. West
though a little bit dated, Mr Bryson still knows how to write to enthrall his readers...makes me wish i was in Australia to appreciate even more what he is talking about.Published 2 days ago by ann caywood
Funny, and enlightening. I'm glad I read this on my way to visit AU.Published 5 days ago by Szabolena
Great read. I like his travel style and his perspective . Makes me want to travel to austraila myself.Published 6 days ago by Amazon Customer
Great primer prior to leaving for Australia for a few weeks. Covers a lot of territory with great descriptions of the geography, a good history lesson,
and what to expect to... Read more
Bill Bryson writes an amazingly detailed and insightful story, full of history and humor, about his travels in Australia. Prepare to be both informed and entertained. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Amazon Customer