Review of ‘Down Under’ by Bill Bryson

A wonderful travelogue, also published as In a Sunburned Country, packed full of Bill Bryson’s trademark mix of dry humour, amazing facts and delightful ambling. He does manage to get into some scrapes but is easily pleased, providing that there is somewhere with beer, friendly people and a view. The main takeaways from this book are that Australia is an enormous country but relatively empty; that it contains many things that can kill you; its history and politics should be better-known; and that surprises await the tourist willing to explore further than the main cities. There was so much in this book that I haven’t retained all of it. Certain of his experiences stuck with me, such as going to see the stromatolites (the oldest living lifeforms) and trying to convince the American sightseers that it was worth the journey. Although he does go to the most popular tourist spots, such as Uluru, he visits many out of the way places and often finds fascinating little museums. He still doesn’t get to see everything he wants to, as the distances between locations are vast. To his surprise, some of Australia seems to be perpetually in the 1950s. Whether this is still the case 25 years later, I don’t know. In summary, a great read which will both amuse and educate you.

First published in 2000 by Doubleday.

Book cover shows Uluru, kangaroo, car, boomerang, opera house and koala.

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