In a Sunburned Country Paperback – Jun 12 2001
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
With the Olympics approaching, books on Australia abound. Still, Bryson's lively take is a welcome recess from packaged, staid guides. The author of A Walk in the Woods draws readers in campfire-style, relating wacky anecdotes and random facts gathered on multiple trips down under, all the while lightening the statistics with infusions of whimsical humor. Arranged loosely by region, the book bounces between Canberra and Melbourne, the Outback and the Gold Coast, showing Bryson alone and with partners in tow. His unrelenting insistence that Australia is the most dangerous place on earth ("If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback") spins off dozens of tales involving jellyfish, spiders and the world's 10 most poisonous snakes. Pitfalls aside, Bryson revels in the beauty of this country, home to ravishing beaches and countless unique species ("80% of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, lives nowhere else"). He glorifies the country, alternating between awe, reverence and fear, and he expresses these sentiments with frankness and candor, via truly funny prose and a conversational pace that is at once unhurried and captivating. Peppered with seemingly irrelevant (albeit amusing) yarns, this work is a delight to read, whether or not a trip to the continent is planned. First serial to Outside magazine; BOMC selection. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
But most of all, when I first read this book I was 13. I didn't really know anything about Australia aside from the fact that it was the home of kangaroos and dingos. Well, In A Sunburned Country made me fall in love with Oz. Now I see it as a kind of Canada of the Southern Hemisphere, rugged and very nature driven with a small population and friendly peacful citizens.
Now that I'm 19? I've been accepted to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia and I'm planning on rereading my favorite Bill Bryson book over and over until I'm standing on Australian soil.
What higher praise can there be for an travel author than to inspire his readers to pick up and fly 15,000 km to see the place he's painted so vivid a picture of?
In 'Notes from a Small Island', Bryson skips easily from topic to topic, highlighting whichever particular memories strike his fancy. Here, however, we are presented with much more of a standard travelogue in which a good deal more historical and geographical detail provided. Most of it though, I am glad to say, is presented in the light, humorous way in which this author usually entertains me and I enjoyed it immensely. I am cognizant that some reviewers have criticized Bryson for being less than accurate and not 'in-depth' enough, but I didn't buy this book as a sociological, political, or 'what-have-you' treatise, I sometimes just liked to hear a story about somebody's experiences... that's what this book is. I should add that, while my wife and I have very different tastes in literature, I gave her this book before she took a trip to a conference in Sidney and she enjoyed it very much.
My only quibble about this book is as follows: When Bryson is at his most fluid and honest, his humor is easy and very natural. When he *tries* to be funny, however, the prose becomes noticeably forced and the resultant humor declines proportionately. In this book, he confesses to a fear of dogs and goes into a lengthy description of an encounter with one in suburban Sidney. Unfortunately, his particular reaction to canines is not one shared by most people so this whole attempt at to provide a comic 'filler' ended up being little more than tedious... for me at least.
Still a great book though :)
Most recent customer reviews
One thing I didn't expect was that he was so funny, I enjoyed his dicriptions of the country and I can visualize it very well. but as a jurnalist he is a comedian. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Lise-Anne Caron
I generally don't read nonfiction as I find most of it very tedious and dull. However, Bill Bryson's book was exceptional. It was bright, funny and entertaining. Read morePublished 11 months ago by L. Weich
Best book before you travel to Australia. it's witty and full of awesome historical facts about the country told like a story not a history textbook so you really remember things. Read morePublished 11 months ago by LF
How can I review when it has never been able to be downloaded. Failure of Kindle.Published 18 months ago by Ron Bourgeois
I have been to Australia twice, once to Perth (12 days) and once to Cairns (10 days). En route to a 3 month stay in Brisbane, so decided to get stoked about it by reading more on... Read morePublished on July 8 2013 by JC
Bryson is at his very best here. His adventures in Australia are a tour de force of humour, historical and cultural insights, and an excellent list of the sorts of poisonous and... Read morePublished on June 29 2013 by Dr. Duncan M. Taylor