Top positive review
52 people found this helpful
Very informative, telling you many things no ordinary travel book does
on 3 September 2006
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.
PS. "In a Sunburned Country" has also been published under the title "Down Under". It is exactly the same book.