by Bill Bryson
Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity.
Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.
(I read this with Donald.)
It was about on par with A Walk in the Woods, I'd say. Much better than the memoir about his childhood... The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (had to look it up), but that in itself is not glowing praise. The comparison to A Walk in the Woods is far more flattering.
The thing about Bill Bryson is... he kind of gets on my nerves, sometimes. When he's at his best, he's an entertaining writer. (Though, after Donald did a little background reading on one of the historical anecdotes, we wonder how often he embroiders, tells part of the story, etc. when a harsh-light-of-day account of the facts leaves something to be desired.)
Anyway, as I was saying, Bryson presents some interesting information in a very readable format, but every now and then something else sneaks into the book-- a glimpse into the attitudes of the author himself, one assumes-- and it's not charming. Also, the man seems to be absolutely obsessed with having a (few) drink(s) every night. Maybe I just can't relate, as a non-drinker... I get that some people enjoy a drink every now and then-- but every night? Does every place he stays have to have a bar or pub within walking distance? Both of us noticed it, by the way, so it's not just me being picky. ;o)
...Overall verdict: We were entertained-- he certainly makes Australia (or parts of it at least) seem appealing-- but I'm glad to move on to something else, now.