14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I will cross Australia or perish in the attempt,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Dig Tree: The Extraordinary Story of the Burke and Wills Expedition (Hardcover)
The sense of foreboding for the perilous expedition starts building from the first page and is sustained right until the end of the book, even after the outcome is revealed. This book abounds with interesting trivia. Did you know that 80% of Australia's population lives within 30km of the coast even today? Did you know that after many camels were shipped in to help cross the outback, so many escaped that Australia now has the largest non-disease ridden camel population in the world - so much so that they are to this day shipped back to Saudi for racing? The main protagonists of the adventure are sharply drawn in concise, powerful writing that only requires a single sentence to give you a sense of who these people are. The hero, Burke, is "a tall, flamboyant Irishman with flashing blue eyes and a magnificent beard". Wills on the other hand is described as "an intelligent, dependable, abstemious young man with a talent for surveying and a strong sense of duty". The contrast between the natures of the two men serves as a constant theme in the book as they together pursue their exploration of the outback. The Dig Tree draws on a tremendous amount of research material and is insightful in its presentation of issues as diverse as gold prospecting in Melbourne, the progress of disease caused by nutritional deficiencies and the history of the Aborigines. A thoroughly riveting read, this book feels like an education in Australian history but above all the writing that sustains the narrative is beautiful and haunting: "giant rock undulations run down like waves...there is nothing but dessicated brown earth running towards a string of sharp white salt lakes on the horizon". Sarah Murgatroyd drops wonderful little pieces of information throughout the journey, even a few pages from the end she manages another surprise for the reader with the myth of "yellow Alice". When I read Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines I was desperate to visit Australia. Now I simply cannot wait any longer. Both educational and inspirational, for me the essence of the book is the lust for life the writer inspires into every page.
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