Thursday, July 5, 2007
I recently decided on a whim to read Bill Bryson's book In a Sunburned Country and I wasn't disappointed. I have read a handful of his other books including A Walk in the Woods, The Lost Continent, and Notes From a Small Island. Bryson has such a unique way of writing about a place. His books include general travel commentary, loads of fascinating history, lots of it fairly obscure, and his humorous insights. I don't know much about Australia and Bryson gives a wonderful overview. He visits and describes the major cities and sites, as well as more off the beaten track places. He writes that so much of Australia is still undiscovered, about species once thought extinct being spotted and written about, never to be seen again. Bryson's tale is of a mysterious, fascinating, and friendly place, one that he enjoys immensely.
Some particular statistics I found fascinating are those having to do with population density. Keep in mind, these numbers are from 2000 but you'll get the idea.
Britain 632 (people per square mile)
United States 76
Across the entire world 117
Bryson tells the good and the bad. Government polices that turned out not to be such great ideas. Specific details on how the country became what it is today. My copy contains a new appendix on the 2000 Olympics. Bryson states "it seems entirely possible that Sydney will stand as a pinnacle for the Modern Olympics - a time when the largest number of people enjoyed the biggest Games in the most cheerful circumstances possible."
I particularly enjoyed a part when Bryson visits a museum devoted to the story of the Batavia shipwreck, something I've recently learned about from reading The Accomplice by Kathryn Heyman. I absolutely love when something or someone I've read about in one books turns up in another book.
My only 'complaint' if it is one, is that I wished Bryson had written more about the Aboriginal population. He makes mention of them several times, but never delves more deeply.
I highly recommend this book and Bryson's other books I mentioned above. If I should ever have the good fortune to visit Australia I'll be certain to reread this.
I'm currently reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood for my July book club and have begun Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle. A stack of books arrived for me recently from the library. I tend to look through what they have ordered and put myself on the list for whatever looks interesting. I tried a couple of them, but they were no match for Atwood's talents and they will be returned unread. I am also planning on making room in my reading schedule for a certain book being published later this month.