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Down Under by Bill Bryson

Down Under (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Bill Bryson

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7,677202729 (3.98)286
Travel writer Bill Bryson chronicles the experiences he had and profiles the people and wildlife he encountered while traveling through Australia.
Title:Down Under
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Doubleday (2001), Paperback, 329 pages
Collections:Your library

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In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (2000)


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» See also 286 mentions

English (191)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (199)
Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
Wow! What can I say other than In A Sunburned Country was a beautifully informative and occasionally hilarious love letter to Australia; as a reader/listener I felt like I was travelling right alongside Bill as he travelled from NSW to Western Australia and learning so much about Australia that I never knew. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with the remotest interest in Australia, its culture, and its people. ( )
  Melzyrose90 | Aug 1, 2019 |
My Mom sent me this one after I told her we were thinking of a trip to Melbourne. It may have been funnier as a listen - he did have a decent sense of humor. Over the course of a few visits in the 90s (I think) Bryson explores the wonders of Australia - and it is pretty cool. From populous Victoria to they many way-out boonies. I hope we do get to go... ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
typical Bryson, amusing lots to know ( )
  gayjeg | Apr 25, 2019 |
I freely admit that I wasn't really interested in Australia before reading this book, and Bryson definitely got me very intrigued, and now I'd very much like to travel there.

It was really good, but I wish I'd heard more about the Aborigines. He definitely talked about them, but I wish there'd been more. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
Bryson bases the title of his book on the famous and much beloved Australian poem "Core of My Heart" by Dorothea Mackellar where she states that "I love a sunburnt country/A land of sweeping plains,/ Of ragged mountain ranges/ Of droughts and flooding rains." It pretty much sums up Australia. And yes, Bryson realizes that the line is sunburnt and he made it sunburned. Its a play on words. He does get sunburned once during his time there. This review is hard to write because, like Australia, this book covers a vast amount of interesting stuff. It's hard to know where to start.

Australians are the nicest group of people you are likely to meet. They have no history of having a revolution or a despot leading their government or of anything really bad. Which is how they get forgotten so easily. But the true forgotten people are the indigenous people of Australia the Aborigines. They traveled to Australia by boat when people weren't really using boats to travel and somehow made it to Australia some 60,000 years ago. And they are the oldest living continuous culture. For a long time after the whites arrived, it was okay to kill them or lynch them without consequence. Then in June 1838 in Myall, some cattle were rustled and then blamed on the Aborigines. They gathered the men, women, and children up in a ball and played with them for hours before killing them with rifles and swords. The city was outraged and put the men on trial and was at first acquited but a second trial found them guilty and they were then found guilty and hung. This, however, did not end the violence against the Aborigines it just made it go underground. And this was by no means the worse atrocity committed to Aborigines. It just happened to be the only time that whites were brought to trial and found guilty for it. There's not much to see in Myall. Most people go there to hunt for minerals. The events there long forgotten.

The only time that they ran into rude or otherwise uncooperative Australians was in a little town in the Northern Territories called Darwin. But a museum there more than made up for any inconvenience they received from the locals. It contained an exhibit of the tragedy of Cyclone Tracy which came through in 1974 and leveled the place. Included was a recording made by a priest of the cyclone which is very eerie and creepy. The cyclone flattened nine thousand homes and killed sixty-four people. Also included were stuffed animals from the area's diverse background that can probably kill you with the crocodile "Sweetheart" a male crock that killed fifteen boats before being accidentally killed when being moved to another area. He was seventeen feet and seventeen hundred pounds. But what he came here to see was the dead box jellyfish that was on display. It is the most dangerous creature known to man. The sea snake is also an interesting animal in that it is an inquisitive creature with a sweet nature but cross them and they can kill you three times over. This is a nation where 80% of the world's most venomous plants and creatures live. Also, animals and plants not native to the area have a way of thriving and trying to take over. For example, the rabbit that some Englishmen brought over to hunt and got loose and overtook Australia eating up foliage in the process. On top of that, the prickly pear was introduced to the Northern Territory and nearly took up every available space until it was destroyed.

Australia is a vast and empty land filled with all sorts of things and people as this book shows. But a huge portion of the land has not been explored not to mention the plants and animals that haven't been cataloged. This book is part travelogue, part history story. You'll be traveling down a road in Canberra or Melbourne, or Alice Springs, or any number of small tiny towns he stops to overnight while driving to different cities and he'll wander down a side street and discover some unknown place or about some unknown people like the Prime Minister who in the 1960s wandered out into the surf of the Queensland and disappeared and how those of Queensland is crazier than a bag of cut snakes. But that people of Queensland feel they are misunderstood by their fellow Aussies. To me, it seems like the Florida of Australia. Where crazy things happen all the time for no discernable reason. Also included is a series of articles that he wrote about the Sydney 2000 Olympics, which is highly entertaining. I really loved this book and give it five out of five stars.


After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn’t fix in a hurry. It is not ture that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavours look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don’t wish to denegrade a sport that is played by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incoporporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as the players—more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.

-Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country p 105-6)

No, the mystery of cricket is not that Australians play it well, but that they play it at all. It has always seemed to me a game much too restrained for the rough-and-tumble Australian temperament. Australians much prefer games in which brawny men in scanty clothing bloody each other’s noses. I am quite certain that if the rest of the world vanished overnight and the development of cricket was left in Australian hands, within a generation the players would be wearing shorts and using bats to hit each other. And the thing is, it would be a much better game for it.

-Bill Bryson (In A Sunburned Country p 108)

“Are bushfires a big worry?” “Well, they are when they happen. Sometimes they’re colossal. Gum trees just want to burn, you know. It’s part of their strategy. How they outcompete other plants. They’re full of oil, and once they catch fire they’re a bugger to put out.”

-Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country p 162-3)

I often use alcohol as an artificial check on my pool-playing skills. It’s a way for me to help strangers gain confidence in their abilities and get in touch with my inner wallet.

-Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country p 242)

When even camels can’t manage a desert, you know you’ve found a tough part of the world.

-on the Outback Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country p 245)

I don’t know why, but every Olympics these days has a mascot. Moscow had a bear called Mischa. Nagano had cute snowflake creatures. Atlanta, I believe had a person being shot on a street corner.

-Bill Bryson (In A Sunburned Country p 319)

A cynic might conclude that our policy toward drugs in America is to send users either to prison or to the Olympics.

-Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country p 324) ( )
1 vote nicolewbrown | Apr 1, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 191 (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
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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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.
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