Select one of the keywords
In A Sunburned Country    by Bill Bryson order for
In A Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Bill Bryson, a self-professed Australophile, gives us In A Sunburned Country, amust read for voyagers Down Under. It has much of interest for both business travelers touching down on the major cities and adventurous explorers heading to remote regions. The title relates to poet Dorothea Mackellar's beloved (by Aussies) verse 'I love a sunburnt country' and perhaps to the author's own condition during his travels.

Having spent four months wandering around Australia myself (in 1979), I had been meaning to pick up this tale for months and only regret that I delayed. I enjoyed the author's quirky commentary on his own homeland in Notes From a Big Country, and his Australian anecdotes are equally insightful and even funnier. He gets around, spending time in all the major coastal cities, and also wends his way to Cairns by the Great Barrier Reef and to Alice Springs and Uluru (once known as Ayer's Rock) in the center.

A major theme of the book is how little the rest of the world knows about this island continent and how much it has to offer, from undiscovered species to uncharted regions, and scarcely visited attractions that would be major tourist sites in other parts of the Western world. Bryson dwells on significant events, little known outside Australia and quickly forgotten even there, like the Prime Minister who disappeared off a Victoria beach in 1967, and the mysterious desert blast that may have been an Aum Shinrikyo atomic bomb trial in 1993.

He also has fun describing the dangers Aussies cope with in their environment and their off-hand descriptions of them - from venomous funnel web spiders in Sydney gardens to the wide variety of toxic inhabitants of the oceans, and the deadly saltwater crocodiles in tropical regions. But it's the author's self-deprecating commentary that makes his travel volumes so entertaining to the reader. My favorite came early in the tale and had nothing to do with his location but rather with post-jet lag sleeping habits ... 'I sleep as if injected with a powerful experimental muscle relaxant ... Whatever is inside - tongue, uvula, moist bubbles of intestinal air - decides to leak out.'

My only disappointment in the story was that I had hoped for more depth of coverage on the Australian Aborigines, though their situation does get sympathetic mention in several chapters - 'You don't have to be a genius to work out that Aborigines are Australia's greatest social failing' - along with an admission that the author 'didn't have the faintest idea what the solution to all this was, what was required to spread the fruits of general Australian prosperity to those who seemed to signally unable to find their way to it.'

In A Sunburned Country is a great travel read, with a bonus appendix of newspaper articles written by the author on the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. If you have already been to Australia or have a yen to visit a place where 'there is such a lot to find in it, but such a lot of it to find it in' then don't miss this informative and very funny book.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Travel books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews