In a Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson
Once again, Bill Bryson steps out the door and into his favorite activity – travel. This time, it is Australia, where he will brave the scorching heat, the many miles of barren desert land, and, of course, the many ways one could die. There are the spiders, the snakes, the crocodiles, the jellyfish, the sharks, and a whole host of other dangers. Yet despite this multitude of hazards, Australia is a country filled with sunshine, and Bryson plans to have a blast.
No matter which book of Bryson’s you crack open, you are bound to have a good laugh. Bryson has a remarkable talent for making the most ordinary things funny. He makes caricatures of people and situations whenever he can and engages frequently in hyperbole. If you are ever in need of cheering up, simply pick up one of Bryson’s books and begin reading. Within a matter of seconds, you will be in a considerably cheerier mood.
Bryson states towards the beginning of the book that he loves Australia. Even if he hadn’t explicitly said so, it would have been clear from the generous praises he lavishes upon the country. He writes with fondness of the vast emptiness of Australia that is at once daunting and charming; the numerous poisonous insects, reptiles, and mammals waiting to strike; and the never-ending cheerfulness of the Aussies themselves. His criticisms are few and far between, again highlighting how pleasing he finds Australia. One such criticism was of Ned Kelly’s Last Stand, a commercial establishment in Glenrowan, Victoria, that memorializes the outlaw’s capture. Bryson describes the exhibition as “so wonderfully, so delightfully, so monumentally bad” that it was worth every penny they paid and more. If you wanted, you could call that a compliment.
Throughout the book, Bryson interweaves tidbits of Australian history, which I found particularly helpful. Reading In a Sunburned Country was a bit like touring a museum with a very knowledgeable tour guide. I am not well-versed in Australia’s history, and reading this book was a pleasant and amusing way of educating myself.
I would recommend this book for young adults and older readers, with some reservations. Bryson occasionally uses profanity and makes sexual jokes and references. However, In a Sunburned Country was both an edifying and entertaining read, filled with Bryson’s colorful and hilarious descriptions. I’ve packed my bags and am ready to take off for Australia now.