Confession: this is not the first time I have read Down Under. The first time was just before I visiting Australia a decade ago. I didn’t actually buy the book for me. It was a Christmas present for my mom after I somehow got confused about her request for the latest book by Bernard Cornwell. Don’t ask.
The book itself gave me so much help in planning my trip. I had twelve months to travel and the guidebooks were all so uniform. Catering to either the backpacker (party!!!) or the high end tourist (out of my budget), they were great for the overview. There was something different about Down Under though. It made Australia seem alive to me before I even got there. It certainly made me want to visit places I would never have normally considered.
Now I find myself tantalisingly close to Aussie again, but yet still so far away. Despite the fact it is closer now than it has been in a good many years, my next planned trip out of New Zealand is going to be to the States and Canada. That’s been planned long before my sudden move and not going to change now. So, in an attempt to remind myself of what I had been holding onto for so long, when I saw Down Under in the library I couldn’t resist getting it.
Even for those that have never been, Bryson’s storytelling is instantly accessible. He is evocative without ever being grandiose and at times brutally honest in a way that anyone aiming for a commercial tourism book would never be.
From his terrifying assessment of the wildlife (why is it so likely to kill you anyway?) to exploring the cities (I personally think Canberra gets an unfair rap), Bryson covers it all. Plus he’s right; unless you live there, you never remember the name of the Prime Minister. Sometimes, I suspect, you don’t remember even if you’re Aussie born and bred.
So, this wasn’t the first time I read it and it won’t be the last. Hopefully, at some point in the next twelve months, I’ll be in a position to see it all for myself again too…