Down Under

 Down Under by Bill Bryson

Well I had a fun week travelling through Australia with the always entertaining Bill Bryson. It's never been a place I wanted to visit, mostly because it's ridiculously far away and too expensive a trip, but I so thoroughly enjoyed his experiences there that I was sorry to see the book come to an end. He's such an engaging story teller. His wry observations and keen interest in details kept me glued to the page throughout. I haven't read all his books yet, but I do know there aren't enough of them; there are so many places I want him to write about. Maybe he'll see this and take my list. No? 

Bryson's love for Australia is obvious, but he also admits it has more things that can kill you than any other country. Animals, plants, bugs and weather all demand the respect of the traveler who wants to enjoy this country and live to tell about it, and he tells us about an unlucky few who didn't. His own adventures, some of which were quite harrowing, had happier endings. The fact that he's willing to share his own mistakes and bad decisions makes it all very relatable, and those turn out to be some of the most memorable - and funniest - parts.  

What makes his books so entertaining is his ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and the humour in everyday things. He can make an ordinary drive from one city to another seem like an event by pointing out the idiosyncrasies of the road, the traffic, and the countryside - be they comical or quizzical. From his endearing encounters with the charmingly cheerful people of Australia to his sometimes unflattering opinions of landmarks and noteable places, the book is full of information about a country I never expected to find so appealing. Some of his stories will stay with me for a long time, like the one about his magical tree-top walk above a forest of unimaginably tall trees. Sublime.

Another thing I particularly like is the just-right-amount of background information he gives about the places and people he encounters. The historical bits give some context and a better understanding of Australia and Austalians, who, apparently, really are as cool as they seem in all those travel ads.

Down Under is a invigorating romp through the busy cities, small towns and empty outback of Australia, told in the sometimes hilarious, occasionally poignant, always diverting style of one of the best travel writers I've ever read.   


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