It is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents and still Australia teems with life – a large portion of it quite deadly. In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in a very nasty way than anywhere else. Ignoring such dangers – and yet curiously obsessed by them – Bill Bryson journeyed to Australia and promptly fell in love with the country. And who can blame him? The people are cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted and unfailingly obliging: their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water; the food is excellent; the beer is cold and the sun nearly always shines. Life doesn’t get much better than this…These evocative descriptions of Australia and its lifestyle are accurate and interesting. Facts, figures, history, extent and division of territories, flora and fauna; how they look, how deadly or how tame they are, and how many of them exist, will stir exciting memories for those who have been Down Under and paint a precise picture in the mind for those who haven’t.
Events, how people look and what they say are recorded faithfully and with master of observation Bill Bryson’s wonderful facility for making you laugh out loud, there are plenty of reasons for doing so. His running commentary on a radio broadcast cricket match, a game about which he knows nothing, is brilliantly inventive. There’s not a single actual word or expression associated with the game but the nuance is stunning. Spiky conversations with his English producer friend as they drive to Ayres Rock, the sighting of a rotary clothes-line in the depths of the outback, confrontations with receptionists and waiters, a beer-drinking man at the bar of the Nambucca telling him “Dining room’s closed mate. The chef’s crook. Must have ate some of his own cooking” and a full tuckerbag more, are entertainingly, albeit rather hastily, delivered by the reader. —Running time 3 hours
— Lyn Took