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  • Writer's pictureJulie Mackin

Maybe the dingo ate your baby

Happy Saturday! On Saturdays, I am going to publish a review of a book that is inspired in some ways by travel. These books might prompt you to get out or just highlight a place you want to visit, even if it is just from the comfort of your armchair.

In A Sunburned Country By Bill Bryson

In which the dingo never made an appearance actually

Stars: 4/5

So Australia is pretty amazing. Aside from the massive land formations, the vast numbers of things that can kill you (the most poisonous snakes anywhere), miles of beautiful coastline and thousands upon thousands of sheep, it does NOT make Bill Bryson cranky. Is this possible? Apparently the sunshine and the ever present possibility of being over run by red ants or stung by a jellyfish has made Bryson a shade less cynical. Maybe it was all the offers of sunscreen.

What I like the best about Bryson's books is that he doesn't intrude too much, he doesn't go on and on about himself, but rather he knows we need the guide, so he figures he'll suffice. While I was reading this I would check out Google maps so I could follow along on the roads trips - hundreds of miles in a day on routes with maybe one or two other vehicles (ack like Wyoming!). It is hard to imagine the space and the emptiness. As Bryson points out, there are vast portions of this continent that haven't even been surveyed yet (and this was in 2001). He manages to convey that sense of space and I wanted to hop on a plane and check it all out.

Bryson is a great humorist and he does have an eye for the ridiculous. Who else would devote time and ink to a museum of the world's largest earthworm? But he also gives us access to the amazing, tucked away places we will probably never see - the maritime museum on the west coast in Geraldton, It examines the shipwrecked Dutch merchant vessel, The Batavia, and the insanity that ensued after the captain left them in search of help (if you have some time, Mike Dash's book on the subject is great). This is where the first white men are believed to have landed in Australia - or actually be forcibly sent there - which seems like the beginning of a trend for the country.

I almost wish there was more in the book - more history, more stories, more legends and more creepy animals. He should go back, I need an update, just like he did with his recent revisit of his adopted British homeland.

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