Friday 15 August 2014

Down Under - Bill Bryson

Title: Down Under
Author: Bill Bryson
Genre: Travel
Published: 2000
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Down Under” (known as "In a Sunburned Country" in the US) by Bill Bryson is a travel book and I read it not because I was planning on heading to Australia but because the genre was a requirement in the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge. I decided on this book because I had heard that Bryson is a humorous and clever writer and I decided I wanted to read about a place I had never been before.

Anyway this book is a travelogue of a journey across the incredibly diverse country of Australia. It really is a humorous romp that had me grinning at multiple places, Bryson has a very self-deprecating way of expressing his thoughts and observations that appeals to my Scottish sense of humour.

Whilst the humour is a very big part of the book, there is still also a fair amount of interesting information present about Australia itself and the various attractions that Bryson visits. One thing he really pushes in the book is how big and varied Australia really is. He covers a fair chunk of it from the vast empty desert to the various cosmopolitan cities. But it isn’t just the landscape and places which are highlighted, he also covers the flora and fauna which are abundant, diverse and very specific to Australia itself. I am honestly not sure I fully appreciate the scale and variety of Australia before but I definitely do now.

Bryson doesn’t just stick to humorous commentary and highlighting the various local features, he also provides the reader with historical information and stories about the places he is visiting. This was actually a very interesting addition and it helped me gain a better understanding of why some of the places where the way they were. It also didn’t try and hide things either which meant at times it was quite eye opening with the attitudes to the Aboriginals in particular being quite saddening to read about.

One minor niggle with the book is that I am reading it about 15 years after he wrote and therefore it can at times seem a little dated. I suspect this would be even more obvious to people who live in or have visited Australia recently as any local differences would be much more noticeable to them. It isn’t a major issue but it does make me wonder how much of it is all still relevant.

Overall I loved this book; the writing is witty, clever and well-paced with the alternating narrative of facts, stories and humour ensuring I was thoroughly entertained. Reading the book has definitely increased my interesting in heading to Australia myself. As far as I am concerned any travel book that attracts you to the place it is describing is quite simply a success.


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