Down Under by Bill Bryson

(Once again, image from Goodreads. I must remember to take more photos!)

I wasn’t a big fan of Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island. I found the humour depreciating and his treatment of others distainful. Other encouraged me not to write him off entirely and suggested something closer to home, namely Down Under, a subject I know a lot about as I’m Australian.

Firstly, I found Bryson’s treatment of fellow Aussies a lot better- there are only a few he gets snarky with. Maybe this is because of our dry humour- and the fact he would get cut down to size pretty quickly.

I found it highly amusing that he had no concept of the distances involved between cities- Sydney is not two hours away from Brisbane for instance- surely he would have discovered this in his research? (Plus I’d like to know what speed he was doing to suggest Perth to Shark Bay is an eight hour drive- it’s nearly 900 km and our maximum speed limit is 110 km/hr!) Still, kudos for going to places that other tourists would not- such as the Shark Bay stromatolites, Broken Hill, Daly Waters and Canberra. His history of Australia is also very good, especially the explorers, which brought me back to primary school social studies.

If you’re not from Australia, you might find Bryson’s obsession with dangerous and venomous snakes/spiders/whatever a little worrying. Honestly, you can walk down the street here without confronting a deadly snake or spider, plus we do have anti-venoms!

I thought that this was a pretty good travelogue of Australia, even though Bryson did leave some areas out, namely the north west of Western Australia. Maybe he’d like to return? I’d certainly read it.

8 out of 10.

9 thoughts on “Down Under by Bill Bryson

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  1. I’m glad you decided to give Bryson another try. He’s one of my fav authors, though I agree Notes From A Small Island isn’t his best. If you do think you’ll check out his other work, I recommend Neither Here Nor There

      1. Is that his new one? I haven’t read it yet but I’ve heard he had a new one out. Hopefully I’ll get to pick it up soon. Or I’ll get to read your review of it, should you choose to read it!

  2. I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s great to hear what you as an Australian think of this work! I’ve read a couple of his books and really enjoyed them, I nearly died laughing while reading his memoir.

    Haha, I always assumed that cities everwhere have the same dangers (cars, thieving, gangs etc 😉 ) and that the wildlife mostly stayed in the wild. Very typical to obesess about snakes etc when talking about Australia.

    In his Europe travelogue, Bryson visited my hometown, and it was so funny to read his perspective. I was wondering whether we were thinking about the same town 😀

  3. Thanks for this review. I’m currently reading “Notes from a Small Island”. It’s funny at times. There have been other times when I’d wonder just how insulting a Brit would find some of the things he says.

    I’m an American and lived in the UK for a year in college back in the late 1980’s, so some of the things he found odd/funny about the UK I agree with. (Still there was no need for him to be nasty about it.)

    Have you read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bryson?? That one is absolutely excellent – one of my all-time-favorites.

    BTW, found you via the Hop… Enjoy your week!

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