by Bill Bryson
Category: Travel & Holiday / Travel Writing
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publication date: 5 May 2001
Number of pages: 432
Prizes: Winner of WH Smith Book Awards: Travel 2001.
Winner of WH Smith Book Awards (Travel Writing) 2001.
Australia has more things that can kill you than anywhere else. Nevertheless, Bill Bryson journeyed to the country and promptly fell in love with it. The people are cheerful, their cities are clean, the beer is cold and the sun nearly always shines.
So the question is: will Bill Bryson be able to deliver yet another travel book that educates, entertains and makes the delighted reader laugh aloud? No worries, mate, because 'Bryson visits Australia' (or Down Under, to use its proper title) doesn't disappoint. Our boy Bill declares his love for the Antipodes and proves it beyond doubt. This is another well-researched serio-comic treat, featuring Bryson's classic creation - a bemused American tourist who masks his generosity of spirit and genuine wonder behind a wisecracking persona (the character known as 'Bill Bryson'). Bryson's delight in language and wordplay is perhaps his greatest gift. My favourites from Down Underinclude his collection of Australian Parliamentary epithets ('you perfumed gigolo/mangy maggot/stunned mullet') and his encounter with a complete stranger in the shadow of a giant fibreglass lobster somewhere south of Melbourne (the punch-line to which is 'man crushed by falling bullock's bollocks'). Another winner is the vicious parody of Ozzie radio cricket commentary ('I don't think I've seen offside medium slow fast pace bowling to match it since Baden-Powell took Rangachangabanga for a maiden ovary at Bangalore in 1948'). He's also acute on politics. The plight of the Aborigines in the land that they settled 45,000 years ago lingers in the mind. He remains tough on American junk culture, too: 'We Yanks have created a philosophy of retailing that is totally without aesthetics and totally irresistible.' Bryson's tales of overindulgence in the local brew - familiar from previous books - are still surreally funny but have become a little disturbing. Whether he knows it or not (and I expect he does), he is slowly revealing intriguing aspects of his complicated personality to his many readers. There's an underlying world-weariness here, even an existential angst. EXCELLENT. I continue to find Bryson fascinating company, warts and all. Review by KERRY SHALE (Kirkus UK)
What the papers say:
"The thing that Bryson most loves about Australia - its "effortlessly dry, direct way of viewing the world" - is, in fact, his own. They're a perfect fit" The New York Times Book Review "Bryson is the perfect travelling companion... when it comes to travel's peculiars the man still has no peers" The Times "Bill Bryson is a very talented writer and an enormously funny and perceptive one. He is an artist who needs a big canvas. Australia has provided this. He's painted a masterpiece in travel literature" Globe & Mail Toronto "He arrives at his destination, finds a hotel, checks in, meanders around the neighbourhood, visits any museums or public monuments he happens to encounter, has a couple of drinks, eavesdrops on a conversation or two, then goes to bed. A year later, people on three continents are hospitalised as a result of ruptures caused by laughing so hard at his account of the experience" The Age, Melbourne
Bill Bryson is much loved for his bestselling travel books, from The Lost Continent to Down Under, but Notes from a Small Island has earned a particularly special place in the nation's heart (a national poll for World Book Day in 2003 voted it the book that best represents Britain). His acclaimed A Short History of Nearly Everything won the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. He has now returned to live in the UK with his wife and family. www.billbryson.co.uk
In Stock: 16 copies