In a Sunburned Country

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In a Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson

I’ve been having a one-sided love affair with Australia for as long as I can remember. After years of planning and saving I still haven’t made it to the great Down Under. But until I can plan a trip there, I can console myself with Bryson’s wonderful book.

The hilarious travel writer has been a favorite author of mine for a long time now. Between his stories of growing up in Iowa (The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid), his time living in England (Notes from a Small Island) and even his books on the English language (Mother Tongue), I’ve grown to appreciate his work. A few of his have been misses for me, but I usually love his dry sense of humor and cynical view of travel. This one definitely makes it into the top three favorites list of his books for me.

He writes about everything in Australia from the Great Barrier Reef to the tiny towns in the far west. He covers the history of the Aborigines and the exile of convicts to the continent from England. I love the way he weaves all of this together, adds a big dollop of local beer drinking and meandering through small museums to create an entertaining book. He pairs good information with rye comments on the state of local hotels and supposed “attractions.”

One of my favorite bits was his description of his narrow escape from wild dogs. He told the whole thing from the point of view of the woman whose back yard he stumbles into. I couldn’t stop laughing for about 10 minutes.

Yet despite his teasing, he never looses his ability to gush about the natural beauty of an incredible place. Even when he’s joking about the names of the towns or crazy political systems his love of the place is still obvious. It’s like he’s talking about a relative, he can criticize them a bit, but you know he would defend them to someone else in a heartbeat.

BOTTOM LINE: Do you love travel memoirs or Australia? If yes, then this one is a must. I think it’s also a great introduction to Bryson’s work if you’re curious about him and want to try one of his books. A Walk in the Woods is another great one to start with.

**The audiobook is read by the author and it’s just fantastic!


Rebecca Chapman said...

How hilarious is Bill Bryson! I am Australian and I found it so funny reading about my own country from someone elses perspective. I liked how he recounted what he did in Canberra - which amounted to nothing much because there is nothing much there. Make sure you make it to Australia one day, Ill show you around Sydney :-)

Jenners said...

I adore Bryson!! I read this ages ago and loved it. But I do remember thinking that Australia was one dangerous place.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Love Bryson and he travel books are just awesome.

Jeanne said...

I'm with Jenners--I enjoyed this book, but his descriptions of some of the dangers (I remember a spider, and sharks) were pretty harrowing.

annieb said...

I have friends in Australia and about 10 years ago went for a wonderful visit and tour of the country for three weeks. Didn't see everything, but saw amazing sights. The Australian people are so welcoming and friendly. Bill Bryson hits it right on the head I think. I just read a fairly new one of his called At Home which is a roaming history of (what else) the home. I have read almost all of his work and can say a Bryson book will never let you down.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

This is one of the few by him that I haven't read. I've recently read Notes from a Small Island while actually in the UK and it was a delight. To be read in public at your own risk!

LindyLouMac said...

Like you Australia one day if possible. Yes I have also read some of Bill Brysons books.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Becky - That is just awesome! If I make it there I'll definitely let you know. I'll have to get your tips on what is a must see.

Jenners - That's true, it sounded like a pretty scary spot!

Diane - Definitely!

Jeanne - It seems like all the world's most dangerous creatures live there!

annieb - I will absolutely have to get your travel tips for Australia if I get to go! It sounds like you had an incredible trip!

Alex - I read Notes from a Small Island while living in the UK too! It made it so much better to be in the country he was writing about while reading it.

LindyLou - I'm definitely still hoping to make it there one day.

Kailana said...

I really must read more Bryson!

Nikki Steele said...

Bryson is one of my absolute favorites and this one has been on my list for a while now. Glad to see your endorsement -- especially of the audio version. I'm sure that one's a blast!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kailana - I've found that you either love his work or hate it.

Nikki - It quickly became one of my favorites!