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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, telling you many things no ordinary travel book does
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...
Published on 3 Sept. 2006 by Rennie Petersen

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, but full of interesting stories
My main problem with this book is that parts of it don't read like Bill Bryson! After reading the first couple of chapters I commented to a relative, who is a fan of his newspaper columns, that it was "not as funny as usual because it's not as derogatory". An enthusiastic Bill is a toothless Bill, it seems. Fortunately he soon gets some typically Brysonesque...
Published on 31 Aug. 2001


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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, telling you many things no ordinary travel book does, 3 Sept. 2006
By 
Rennie Petersen (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In A Sunburned Country (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. But that doesn't matter because he captures the spirit of the whole country based on the parts he does visit and the general information he includes.

A very positive aspect is that Bill Bryson makes it clear that he loves Australia. The feeling is infectious, and it makes you want to pack your bags and head "down under" for a long leisurely trip so you can do your own exploring.

If I were to mention two things I was less happy about, it would be the occasional excessive attempts to be funny and the lack of contact with Australians. One of the best parts of the book is about his traveling together with an Australian couple for 3-4 days, but other than this passage Bill Bryson is mostly playing the typical tourist, with little or no contact with Australians. And despite a fairly long discussion about the aboriginal situation he does not ever get into contact with any aboriginals. Why not?

A final note regarding the unabridged audio version of the book, read by Bill Bryson himself: Most authors are poor readers, but Mr. Bryson does a very good job here, almost on a par with a professional reader. Recommended.

Rennie Petersen

PS. "In a Sunburned Country" has also been published under the title "Down Under". It is exactly the same book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely the best Bryson travel book I have read, 28 July 2003
By 
Darren Simons (Middlesex, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Down Under (Mass Market Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate look at a weird and wonderful country, 24 Oct. 2001
This review is from: Down Under (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 (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Down Under (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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson and Australia make perfect partners, 2 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Down Under (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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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, telling you many things no ordinary travel book does, 3 Sept. 2006
By 
Rennie Petersen (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Down Under (Mass Market Paperback)
Bill Bryson is best known for writing very humorous travel books, and "Down Under" 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. But that doesn't matter because he captures the spirit of the whole country based on the parts he does visit and the general information he includes.

A very positive aspect is that Bill Bryson makes it clear that he loves Australia. The feeling is infectious, and it makes you want to pack your bags and head "down under" for a long leisurely trip so you can do your own exploring.

If I were to mention two things I was less happy about, it would be the occasional excessive attempts to be funny and the lack of contact with Australians. One of the best parts of the book is about his traveling together with an Australian couple for 3-4 days, but other than this passage Bill Bryson is mostly playing the typical tourist, with little or no contact with Australians. And despite a fairly long discussion about the aboriginal situation he does not ever get into contact with any aboriginals. Why not?

A final note regarding the unabridged audio version of the book, read by Bill Bryson himself: Most authors are poor readers, but Mr. Bryson does a very good job here, almost on a par with a professional reader. Recommended.

Rennie Petersen

PS. "Down Under" has also been published under the title "In a Sunburned Country". It is exactly the same book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well what can I say......, 13 Jan. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Down Under (Mass Market Paperback)
.....it was so good that I'm flying to Australia in less than a month (no joke!)
I was never really that tempted to go to Oz before but even before finishing this book I knew I had to go! There is never a dull moment when reading a Bill Bryson book. It had me in stitches numerous times. Let's just hope that the little museum in Cowra (with the wee woman walking through the display) won't be a let down eh!
If anyone hasn't read any of Bill's books then please....DO!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, but full of interesting stories, 31 Aug. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Down Under (Mass Market Paperback)
My main problem with this book is that parts of it don't read like Bill Bryson! After reading the first couple of chapters I commented to a relative, who is a fan of his newspaper columns, that it was "not as funny as usual because it's not as derogatory". An enthusiastic Bill is a toothless Bill, it seems. Fortunately he soon gets some typically Brysonesque problems to grapple with, such as weird travelling companions and horrible hoteliers! Perhaps it's a telling comment on Australia that the author's famously dry wit seems to have dried up altogether in the face of such amazing sights.
I particularly like the way Bryson presented stories from Australia's history (most of which were new to me); his cheerful and conversational style enabled me to learn a lot more than I ever did in conventional history books.
Another reviewer has already mentioned what for me was the weakest and most puzzling aspect of this book: its treatment of the Aborigines. I felt he was leaving something important out... as if maybe he'd TRIED to make contact with them, encountered a wall of silence and decided not to put that in his book in case it showed them in an unfavourable light. I guess I'll never know, but something is missing here and I think it's not necessarily something about the Aborigines.
This is certainly not a bad book, and in fact I'm reading it for the second time back-to-back because there were parts I really wanted to read again. But it's not as packed with light-hearted anecdote as most of its predecessors. Don't choose this as your FIRST Bill Bryson book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 4 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Down Under (Mass Market Paperback)
I'm planning on travelling down to Australia in the near future and a few weeks ago I suddenly had the urge to read up on the country; its culture, wildlife and history. This book caught my eye not just because it's about Australia but because it is written by an author who is so passionate in his 'story' telling it feels like you're right there with him. It is not only about his adventures across the continent, he also delves into the past of his continuously changing surroundings. You find out who discovered Australia and when, who designed the Sydney Opera House and what was there before it's time, how the Country prosperously grew to form a nation from what the land was initially used for - a place to send 'Prisoners of Mother England', and many more interesting and sometimes ironic facts. It is such an easy book to read as he brings everything to life with his effortless humour- at some points you will find it hard to contain your laughter (and I'm not exaggerating!) Here's a quote from 'Down Under' which left me laughing at two in the morning - 'As we followed David through the two coach carriages, 124 pairs of sunken eyes sullenly followed our every move. These were people who had no dining carriage, no lounge bar, no cosy berths to crawl into at night. They had been riding upright for two days since leaving Sydney, and still had twenty-four hours to go to Perth. I am almost certain that if we had not had the train manager as an escort they would have eaten us.'
Bill Bryson is a profound writer and I recommend this book to anyone remotly interested in Australia and I can safetly say I will be buying more books under his name.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wander through the Wattle, 23 Aug. 2004
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Down Under (Paperback)
Bill Bryson rarely fails to entertain and this book is no exception. He was also able to inform someone (me) who actually lived in Australia as a schoolchild for 3 years in the late 1960's. His points made me realize why there was one Aboriginal girl in my otherwise all-white class at Middle Harbour P.S. -- in an affluent all-white area in which I never ever saw another Aboriginal-- back in 1967(the reason, apparently, was a policy designed to integrate Aboriginals by exposing them to mainstream Australian life). Another interesting fact was that Canberra had 38,000 people in 1958, about 340,000 in the late 1990's (and still felt to Bryson emptily devoid of people or places to go, as indeed it did when my family visited the "city" in 1967).
One of Bryson's characteristics is the odd little vulgarity which creeps in, but that does not detract from the perceptiveness of the book as a whole. He accurately draws what I recall of the leafy area I myself lived in as a child (Mosman and Cremorne, Middle Harbour and down to Balmoral). Also interesting was his view of the outback and Western Australia, areas personally unknown to this reviewer.
I could not agree with Bryson's view that more should be done to (implied rather than written) make Aboriginals into mainstream members of society. That attempt was made for a century. It failed because their whole way of thinking is different: they have also, coming out of that, a Weltanschauung which is their own and purely their own. But it is true that, from 1967-69 in Sydney, I saw only two Aboriginals in the city and suburbs, one the girl in my 10-year-olds' class and the other one walking in central Sydney.
All in all, a book worth reading, though Bryson ran out of time to really explore towards the end due to a prior appointment in Syria, of all places. Hm, question of priorities...?
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Down Under
Down Under by Bill Bryson (Mass Market Paperback - 6 Aug. 2001)
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