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on 23 May 2015
I wasn’t sure what to make of Bill Bryson to begin with. He likes Marmite (on which we concur) but not Bullseye (one of the best quiz shows Britain has ever produced). I live in Oxford, which he is a bit rude about (his criticisms are fair enough though). By the time he’d toured all of Britain I was very fond of him and even more fond than I already was of it. There is a lot of fun to be had in spotting the places you’ve been to in this book and seeing if you and Bill agree (his mention of the Potato Marketing Board, which no longer exists in Oxford, bought back a happy memory of a romantic tryst I’d enjoyed there). The Milton Keynes tourist board won’t be offering him a job. Thankfully he said nothing which I felt needed correcting with a stiff letter. This book is like a staycation if Britain is your home.
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on 8 November 2015
This book was written 20 years ago and the Internet age has probably changed and improved quite a few things in Old Blighty but some things are still true enough. If you are a hill walker / explorer and love the wilder areas of the UK, then you will enjoy this book. It is quite hilarious in places. Perhaps we take for granted our beautiful ancient heritage.
I was left wondering whether the author actually likes Brits, but think he must do as he is still here.
His observations on modern architecture and the 1960 s and 1970s Brutalist design crimes are more than justified and I agree with them whole heartedly. It makes you think of what we lost when old beautiful places were removed. Who allowed this to happen?
Observations on the strange quirks of Brits are hilarious. Reminds one of how different their culture is from ours. Mr Bryson does not seem to think very highly of the British transport system ( and it has probably not improved greatly since then) but he cannot really compare the resources of our small island with the USA.
His enthusiasm for tourist attractions is infectious but I was irritated by his frequent mention of the admission charges and that he resented paying. If he admires the places so much, why resent it?
He is quite knowledgable about geography and how towns / settlements develop and seems to be able to analyse places quite intricately. Town planners should read this book.
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on 18 November 2014
You always know you are in safe hands with a Bill Bryson travel book. He has a way of getting to the people of a country, rather than just the things to see and do. Of course these are covered as well, but the best bits of the book always come out of the chats he has with the Australians themselves.

In this gallop round Australia Bill takes us to some very well known places as well as some that are well off the beaten track, Having been to Australia and tried to find some of these places I know how tough that can be. "A few miles from the main highway" takes on a whole new meaning in Australia. He left me with an urge to go back and see some of the places that so few people have seen they can't actually find the places again. You are left in no doubt that this is a big, big, big country.

Bill has also given me an unshakeable fear of going into the sea and makes me extremely nervous about going anywhere on land as well, but that is also the nature of Australia. There are things that can kill you just by looking at you, or so it seems. However, he also transfer his deep affection for the country and its people. Again, having been there I can tell you that not all the people are nice, but Bill makes it seem so.

Well worth a read even if you aren't going to Australia any time soon.
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on 18 November 2015
It is years and years now since I read the eponymous line which introduced me to Bill Bryson through his novel, America: The Lost Continent. Reading this is like time travel for me, and immediately took me right back to that moment of loveliness.

His blend of cultural and historical information coupled with subtle humour and gentle ribbing is so infectious. He makes quite dry facts interesting. For example the history of Australia and random facts about the background of it's cities are so well delivered, and keep you wanting more.

His self deprecation is so endearing as he tells us about his lack of social success when eating alone in various hotels and restaurants and his interactions with the natives. I love his very honest descriptions of those he comes across minus the usual political correctness. With Mr Bryson we are told about the nation's quirks as well as hearing it praised.

For example he recounts a story sent to him by an Australian friend who has recently passed on about a family she knew of and the interpretation of such events by the families little girl. So funny.
Another example would be when he is describing the different unusual names of towns down under, even without comment he makes it funny in his relay of such information.

This book informs as much as it entertains and it will take you on an interesting and very funny journey through the country of Australia because Mr Bryson is a very fun and well informed travelling companion indeed.
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on 1 February 2018
I had just come back from holiday in Australia myself and read this...made me laugh so much and loved that we'd visited loads of places he was talking about. Glad I hadn't read before of I might not have ventured to some of the places I did....spiders, scorpions, bluebottles, brown snakes, red backs, etc...we saw the lot...oh and it does rain there. Brysons enthusiasm for the banal was exactly what I enjoyed so it was like reliving some of our experiences through another more eloquent person's description. Wish I could write like that.
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on 12 January 2018
It is OK but after a while it becomes a series of lists about types of words. I would like to have seen the inclusion of the many naval terms that are included in our language, such as "three sheets to the wind" or "son of a gun", "brass monkeys" etc. I think also a bit more as to why words are included or change would be interesting.
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on 29 September 2015
I am loving this book. It is so informative (I hope; sometimes it seems a little lacking in evidence) and well written so that it reads almost like a novel. As an English speaker of English I am sometimes amused to find an American telling me how we habitually pronounce certain words. While it can be the case with AmericanS and even some English people, Bill Bryson often confuses what is generally regarded as "received pronunciation". Even he confesses himself not entirely convinced by the "great vowel shift" theory but his explanations make a lot more sense than almost all those offered over the decades by various professors of the subject. As always with Kindle versions of books, the format is unsatisfactory for me because I often want to recap. on something or cross-reference certain facts but have never found an efficient way of doing this. A proper book enables the brain to remember the rough whereabouts (about halfway through/left or right page/nearly at the bottom and so on) of the phrase or paragraph sought. This is impossible with the Kindle and so much time is wasted that, by the time the reference has been found, one has almost forgotten why one wanted it. However, the book itself is amusingly written, interesting and has kept me absorbed for long periods of time.
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on 20 March 2017
I chose this book because it was about Bill Bryson in Australia and his 'politically correct' way of writing which sometimes includes a swear word or two. Before reading this book, I found myself in Australia visiting my sister and her family where she worked and lived for a couple of years. I liked the relation of some points and places written in this book with real-life events that occurred to me when I was there. I enjoy books by this author because they are so well-written and relate to subjects that interest me.
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on 21 July 2017
As with all Bryson's books, this is very readable - a feature of his prose that can often mislead one into believing his books lacks depth. The evidence that he puts forward that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon actually wrote Shakespeare is very convincing.
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on 26 July 2017
This was the best read I've had for a long time. I have read all of Bill Bryson's books and this one was as good as the rest with lots of laughs, beautifully described countryside and an excellent insight into the country's politics and culture - and it was good to see that he didn't miss the native Australians. An excellent read right to the last page. Would highly recommend.
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