Down Under, Bill Bryson

April 6, 2013 § 9 Comments

I’m about 13 years too late to jump on the fandom bandwagon over Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’. But who cares, I’m on it now.

Searching for something to read a couple weeks back, I found this tucked away in a bookshelf. I’d heard a lot about it (a lot of good things actually), so I figured I’d give it a try. And boy am I glad I did.

In the simplest terms it’s a piece of travel writing. Bryson heads ‘down under’ to explore the massive country that is Australia. And from his journeys east to west, north to south, he produces a book that is one of the funniest I have ever come across.

When you find literature that can make you smirk, giggle and literally laugh out loud on crowded public transport, you know you’re onto a winner.

I say this is a book about travel. But it’s more than that. It’s educational. You learn things. But not in a boring school-lecture type way. In the way that makes you go ‘Wow, that’s interesting. Didn’t know that before.’

Whether revealing that Prime Minister Harold Holt walked into the sea one day in Victoria and was never seen again, or freaking you out by informing you that the krill-eating box jellyfish is the most deadliest creature on the planet, with the ability to “kill a room full of people”, Bryson packs in a whole heap of history and useless but utterly fascinating tidbits.

Perhaps the sole most impressive thing about Down Under is that is has convinced me, a New Zealander, to desperately want to go to Australia. If you have even the slightest idea of the almost big brother, little-brother sibling rivalry that exists between Kiwis and Aussies, you’ll understand just what a feat that is.

I now want to take the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth (the second longest stretch of railway behind the Trans Siberian between Russia and China). I want to see the Devils Marbles (weird rock formations near Alice Springs). I want to walk across the Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants. Never heard about any of these before? Neither had I. And that’s what’s brilliant about Bryson – he doesn’t just do ‘the usual’ Australia, he does the bits that next to no-one has heard of.

So, it’s official. I am a convert to Bill Bryson. And thanks to him, a little less hostile to the neighbours of my home country (except when there’s sport. Naturally).

I just have final thing to say: Bryson, when are you going to publish a novel about New Zealand? Perhaps you could entitle it Further Down Under.

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