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Down Under [Paperback]

Bill Bryson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2001
After tales from the USA and Britain, Bill Bryson turns his roving eye to Australia, the only island that is also a continent and the only continent that is also a country. It is the driest, flattest, most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents. It has more things that can kill you in a very nasty way that anywhere else. Yet when Bill Bryson travelled to Australia he promptly fell in love with the country. And who can blame him? The people are cheerful, the cities safe and clean, the food is excellent, the beer is cold and the sun nearly always shines. He tries to find out why Aussies are so cool, digging up a past that reveals convicts, explorers, gold diggers and outlaws.


Product details

  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (1 July 2001)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0385603096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385603096
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,252,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years ,but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of the decade in the UK.


Photography © Julian J

Product Description

Amazon Review

These evocative descriptions of Australia and its lifestyle are accurate and interesting. Facts, figures, history, extent and division of territories, flora and fauna; how they look, how deadly or how tame they are, and how many of them exist, will stir exciting memories for those who have been Down Under and paint a precise picture in the mind for those who haven't.

Events, how people look and what they say are recorded faithfully and with master of observation Bill Bryson's wonderful facility for making you laugh out loud, there are plenty of reasons for doing so. His running commentary on a radio broadcast cricket match, a game about which he knows nothing, is brilliantly inventive. There's not a single actual word or expression associated with the game but the nuance is stunning. Spiky conversations with his English producer friend as they drive to Ayres Rock, the sighting of a rotary clothes-line in the depths of the outback, confrontations with receptionists and waiters, a beer-drinking man at the bar of the Nambucca telling him "Dining room's closed mate. The chef's crook. Must have ate some of his own cooking" and a full tuckerbag more, are entertainingly, albeit rather hastily, delivered by the reader. --Running time 3 hours

-- Lyn Took --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Review

"The thing that Bryson most loves about Australia - its "effortlessly dry, direct way of viewing the world" - is, in fact, his own. They're a perfect fit" (The New York Times Book Review)

"Bryson is the perfect travelling companion... when it comes to travel's peculiars the man still has no peers" (The Times)

"Bill Bryson is a very talented writer and an enormously funny and perceptive one. He is an artist who needs a big canvas. Australia has provided this. He's painted a masterpiece in travel literature" (Globe & Mail Toronto)

"He arrives at his destination, finds a hotel, checks in, meanders around the neighbourhood, visits any museums or public monuments he happens to encounter, has a couple of drinks, eavesdrops on a conversation or two, then goes to bed. A year later, people on three continents are hospitalised as a result of ruptures caused by laughing so hard at his account of the experience" (The Age, Melbourne) --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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FLYING INTO AUSTRALIA, I realized with a sign that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Bill Bryson is best known for writing very humorous travel books, and "In a Sunburned Country" is indeed a funny account of his travels in Australia. Those who love Bill Bryson's books for their humor won't be disappointed.

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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Darren Simons TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I’m a fan of Bryson (as I seem to say in most reviews I write of his books) but this one’s a bit different. The standard theme of a Bryson book is apparent here.. arrive in a new place, walk for a few hours, sit in a restaurant alone, then a pub alone, then go to sleep. Repeat ad infinitum. Somehow this style works absolutely perfectly for Down Under making it the most enjoyable Bryson book I’ve read.
I read this book shortly before travelling to Australia for the first time (as I’m sure you’ve worked out by now based on the title, the book is all about Bryson’s travels round Australia), looking for a fairly light-hearted introduction to a country I’ve wanted to visit for many years. The book did the job perfectly getting the balance right between useful information, a bit of geography (as in just how far apart everything in Australia is), a fair bit of history and general humour.
I recommend this book to anyone either looking for a good introduction to Australia or travel books generally, or a Bryson fan of course.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book for a friend of mine who holidayed in Oz last year. I myself traveled far and wide in Australia for a year in the late 90s, and fell in love with the country.
I'd never read Bryson before, and so naturally this was my first choice.
It's an excellent account of a traveller's impressions Down Under - time and time again I couldn't believe that Mr Bryson's observations so matched my own (although his are far more witty and colorful!)From the bustling multi-cultural cities, to the lush rainforests, from the startling beauty of the Barrier Reef to the dry emptiness of the Red Center, Bryson is openly and continually amazed. But what really sets this book apart are the incredible anecdotes about the vast array of Australians he encountered - some friendly, some not-so-friendly, many simply eccentric. As I so often found on my travels, the Australian people are as varied, unpredictable and engaging as the country they inhabit.
This was like a trip down memory lane - it's really whet my appetite for a return visit.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson's best 29 Aug 2006
By M. D. P. Meechan VINE VOICE
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is my favourite of Bill Bryson's travel books as it offers an endearing portrait of Australia and its people. It is full of hilarious observations and moments, such as Bill's attempt to outrun two dogs which are chasing him, and oddball facts like the nuclear bomb that was detonated in the Outback which nobody seemed to notice. Lastly, its very educative, and makes this reader, who has never been to Australia, want to visit the country more than watching Neighbours for 15 years has made me want to! A brilliant read!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I enjoy Bill Bryson's book's generally but this was my favourite book of his. Bryson and Australia make a great team.Bryson loves stories of human struggle and endeavour and the history of Australia is stuffed full of tales of heroic failure. I learnt a lot whilst being consistently amused by his dry wit. His sharp eye's and ear's pick up some wonderfully amusing asides during the course of his travels.
If I had to level a criticism then I felt he skipped over some parts of Oz and missed out some completely. Of course it is hard to sum up a whole Country in a single book. The review of Western Australia was , I felt a little rushed.
I wouldn't,however, want to try and dissuade anyone from this book - quite the reverse. It made me laugh out loud many times. I always enjoy being able to recommend a book to a friend that I know they will enjoy and this is a hard book to not enjoy. Bill Bryson has taken travel writing not to a new but to his own unique level. If you enjoy being amused(a lot) educated & informed (a little) then you will really enjoy this book.
If you haven't been to Australia before you read this book you will want to go by the end. If you have been you will want to go back (I did).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically Witty and Informative
An absolutely brilliant book! Bill Bryson had just become one of my favourite writers! Had me laughing out loud on many occasions. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Djlester
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Bryson is again hilarious with his brilliant writing. He even had...
Mr Bryson is again hilarious with his brilliant writing. He even had me laughing out loud while I was waiting for an appointment. As you may well guess I'm a fan.
Published 6 days ago by brackfan
5.0 out of 5 stars So rewarding
Feel reading this has been very rewarding. There are so many reasons, for example, learning about the flora and fauna of Australia, laughing, brief historical info, experiences... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Mark
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good!
Published 15 days ago by jean hockey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Another roller-coaster of observations with humo(u)r! He was in UK as well, for long enough...
Published 15 days ago by Mr. Piotr J. Masiak
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Same read more than a few times
Published 18 days ago by Paul in Epsom
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed
I was led to believe that the book was in excellent condition but it was not! I have returned it for a refund
Published 23 days ago by Carolesf
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book, and well worth reading, although ...
An interesting book, and well worth reading, although my feeling that it is rather spoiled in places by Bryson's crude sense of humour, I have found, is shared by others.
Published 25 days ago by mr david n roe
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Love Bill Bryson. Easy reading with lots of interesting information.
Published 25 days ago by Mrs E A Jarvis
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
great read - plenty humour & easy to read. Bit out dated now but gives a useful summary of Australia's history bad layout.
Published 25 days ago by Freya C. Macmillan
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