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In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

In a Sunburned Country (2000)

by Bill Bryson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bill Bryson's Travels (5)

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English (184)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (192)
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
I laughed a lot. Don't know how I managed to not read any Bill Bryson over the years. This will end now. ( )
  CSDaley | Mar 28, 2018 |
”Australia is just so full of surprises. There is always something just down the road---a treetop walk, a beach harboring ancient life-forms, museums celebrating improbable Dutch shipwrecks or naked telegraph repairmen, really nice people like Mike and Val Cantrell, a fishing village turning out to see a stricken ship limp home. You never know what it’s going to be but it is nearly always pretty good.”

I guess I wasn’t really aware of how immense the country/continent of Australia is but that is the foremost thing I took away from this very good and humorous travel book. I don’t know exactly how much time Bill Bryson spent there doing his research but I’m pretty sure it was considerable. He left no stone unturned, so to speak, and covered every corner of Australia from the largest city (Sydney) to its smallest, most remote and impossible to find woebegone backwater. But he finds something joyful and beautiful about every place he visits, whether it be the landscape, the view, the history, the etymology or the people and most of the time it’s a combination of these things. He includes references to oddities that a region may be known for on page after page. This all works very well for him and, therefore, for the reader.

The immense size of the country and the danger of being caught unprepared while in the brutally hot bush country is brought up many times with specific examples of those unfortunate souls who didn’t heed the warnings and paid the ultimate price. The same goes for the danger of various forms of wildlife, including crocodiles, sharks and stinging jelly fish.

He barely touches on the Aborigine history and justifies that because there’s really nothing he can do about it. Since he relates so much of the history of Australia though, this seems like a miscue. My only other slight objection is the lack of maps, or at least the poor quality of the maps that were provided. I love maps and its one of the reasons I try not to read non-fiction that would benefit from maps on my kindle, which is terrible for maps. But in this case, in a regular trade paperback, the quality just wasn’t very good.

This was a very enjoyable read, filled with humorous anecdotes and left me wanting to book my flight to Australia, maybe tomorrow. Highly recommended. ( )
4 vote brenzi | Mar 20, 2018 |
Certainly made me want to steer clear of Australia. very vivid -- all those creepy creatures on land & water. Despair ( )
  c_why | Feb 14, 2018 |
This travelogue is interesting and entertaining if you stay in the bubble that is Bryson's worldview. Unfortunately he is biased. It is a view of Australia limited to the perspective of the invaders and colonizers with only perfunctory acknowledgement of the original inhabitants. There are plenty of encounters and conversations with white Australians but none whatsoever with Aboriginal people or even the many people of Asian heritage and other nationalities who made up the population at the time of Bryson's travels.

He writes comprehensively about the history of white Australia but makes only cursory mention (about 4 pages) of the challenges imposed on the Aboriginal people by invasion, colonization, legal genocide, seizing of land, introduction of invasive animals and plants which have terraformed the continent and the impact of disenfranchisement from citizenship for most of the years since the invasion. He only devotes a few pages to the pre-invasion history, even though the Aboriginal people have been in Australia for at least 40,000 years and maybe as long as 60,000 years.

He writes only a few paragraphs about the government program that separated generations of Aboriginal children from their parents in an effort at social engineering. Imagine, a van would drive up to your home, government workers would get out, seize all of your children and transport them thousands of miles away. You have no recourse because legally you have neither citizenship nor custody rights, only the government has custody of your children. You will never hear from or about them again. Your children are told their parents are either dead or do not want them anymore. The results were horrendous and predictable.

There also is no mention of any of the positive contributions of the indigenous people. He characterizes them as being invisible, he does not see them participating in any "productive capacity in the normal workaday world." It is startling and sad to read this statement. In reality, Aboriginal people in Australia are actively participating in many aspects of society. Maybe Bryson just had blinders on his eyes.

I purchased this book to prepare for a trip to Australia but had to put it down because of its limited perspective. I finished reading it after my trip. My experiences there just reinforced my initial negative impressions of the Bryson's writing. I also was disappointed by the flippant attitude, snide comments and off-color jokes. He spends a lot of time being bored or disappointed by various aspects of the country. But as he is on the road and stops off in very small towns it is to be expected that he will not find fine food, scintillating conversation or great cultural attractions every day. The same could be said of any small town in middle America. No reason to be so high-handed in criticism of them. There is a beauty in ordinary people carrying on with ordinary lives that he seems to miss. ( )
  Course8 | Feb 4, 2018 |
Following closely on the heels of my recent reading of [b:A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail|9791|A Walk in the Woods Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail|Bill Bryson|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1388189974s/9791.jpg|613469], this Aussie travelogue by the popular and gifted writer Bill Bryson did not disappoint. Matter of fact I found the book superior to that first one I read. Less bad jokes, but still enough off-color to disgust me from time to time. But this particular memoir was jam-packed with useful information regarding the geography and history of Australia. Completely fascinating and dangerous. Much to get hung about. Educational and instructive. Well-written and adventurous. A truly great read. ( )
1 vote MSarki | Jan 7, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
Boisterous and contagious, Bryson’s writing is a constant affectionate tease aimed at prodding the reader as much as the society and place that he is describing. Bryson loves Australia and he wants you to share his enthusiasm for it. Wherever Bryson is: gaping at a giant stuffed lobster on the roadside in the middle of the Australian outback, cursing himself as he tries to snorkel unsuccessfully in the Great Barrier Reef, or admiring Sydney’s harbor he writes with a love and a ruthlessness that only a sibling or best friend would dare to use.
added by mikeg2 | editYale University, Noam Schimmel (Jun 10, 2001)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bill Brysonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gower, NeilIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To David, Felicity, Catherine, and Sam
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Flying into Australia, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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published in Britain as "Down Under"
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Book description
The author of "A Walk in the Woods" now chronicles his exploration of Australia. This good-humoured traveller relates his outback adventures with anecdotes
about the history and local inhabitants. Describes the harsh terrain and hostile wildlife including crocodiles, poisonous snakes, and attacking seashells.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0767903862, Paperback)

Bill Bryson follows his Appalachian amble, A Walk in the Woods, with the story of his exploits in Australia, where A-bombs go off unnoticed, prime ministers disappear into the surf, and cheery citizens coexist with the world's deadliest creatures: toxic caterpillars, aggressive seashells, crocodiles, sharks, snakes, and the deadliest of them all, the dreaded box jellyfish. And that's just the beginning, as Bryson treks through sunbaked deserts and up endless coastlines, crisscrossing the "under-discovered" Down Under in search of all things interesting.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:14 -0400)

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The author takes readers on a tour of the land Down Under that goes far beyond packaged-tour routes.

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