This year has not been travel-friendly for most of us. With international borders closed for a lot of countries around the world, we have to rely on other ways to escape. If all you can think about is going away and discovering places, I’ve got exactly the right remedy for you. Have a look at these five books that will fuel your wanderlust and will take you from your couch… to Australia!
“Down under” by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is one of my favourite authors and I’ve read almost all of his books. “Down under” (or “in a sunburned country” in the US) is one of his best, in my opinion! I received it from my aunt before I left for Melbourne. Bill Bryson tells us about real experiences and trips he had around Australia, with funny stories and unexpected facts all along. He is also reflecting perfectly the laid-back character of most Aussies.
I re-read it after I’ve traveled around the country: I love the fact that he writes about places I’ve visited or experiences I’ve had. Also, I found myself laughing at this book so much! The way Bill Bryson writes makes it so entertaining, as well as the fact that he is commenting from a foreigner point of view (and someone who doesn’t know much about Australia). The following quote is how he is ending the book. Of course, all I can do is agree with him: if you haven’t visited Australia, the loss is entirely yours!
“Australia is mostly empty and a long way away. Its population is small and its role in the world consequently peripheral. It doesn’t have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn’t need watching, and so we don’t. But I will tell you this: the loss is entirely ours.”
“The dead heart” by Douglas Kennedy
This novel takes place in the Australian outback, and is narrated by an American man in the middle of a crisis who just decides to fly to Darwin. His initial plan was to join Perth by car, but he ends up meeting a woman on the road. After few nights of drinking and the beginning of a romance, she kidnaps him and held him, prisoner, in the middle of nowhere. Ok, maybe this one will not exactly make you want to come to Australia! The story and the overall atmosphere is kind of creepy but luckily, fictional. This is a book you can read easily and once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down. I actually wished it was longer!
“The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman
This is a fiction novel taking place during the 1920s, relating the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife. They are living on an isolated island off the coast of Australia. After many attempts to have a child, they encounter a miracle: a boat has washed up onshore, with onboard a dead man but a living baby! Isabel (the wife) sees it as a “gift from God”, and after lengthy talks, they decide to raise the child as their own.
This is not a true story. However, the way the landscape is described made me feel like I was in the middle of the ocean with them. It fueled my wanderlust as this is the ideal place for me: remote, calm, and with nothing else but nature around. Reading this book definitely made me travel. Moreover, the story leaves you to wonder about your own morals and makes you empathize with the couple choices. What would you have done if you were in their shoes?
“There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.”
“Wild by nature” by Sarah Marquis
Sarah Marquis is an explorer from Switzerland and writes mostly in French, but this particular book was translated into English. It is not all about Australia, as she narrates her solo hike journey from Siberia until Australia that lasted three years. The landscape descriptions are always precise and what I love about this book is that you could imagine yourself with her, in the middle of nature. She is going through some of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on the planet, always showing resilience, strength, and a positive mindset.
The way she describes Australia is amazing. She travels relying on nature but always respects it. Her story makes you realize how small we are in this world and the tons of things to discover out there. This woman is an inspiration, and reading her books is always super impressive for me since, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t imagine myself in her position for a second!
“Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” by Doris Pilkington
Based on a true story, this book is one of the first I read when I arrived in Melbourne: I remember getting it from the state library. And what a story! This takes place in Western Australia, where three sisters are taken from their aboriginal families. They are part of what is now called the “stolen generations”, which is an important part of recent Australian History. It was basically the fact to remove indigenous Australians from their home to place them into government shelter, in order to build a uniform white culture.
The author is narrating the story of her mum (Molly), her mum’s half-sister (Daisy), and their cousin (Gracie), who are going to escape the government settlement. They will be walking for 1600 kilometers along the “rabbit proofed fence” which was built to protect crops and pasture from rabbits and crossed Western Australia from North to South. Once again, nature is providing during their journey. The end of the book is bittersweet as the family was torn apart, but it is definitely a read I would recommend to everyone.
“From when she was young, Molly had learned that the fence was an important landmark for the Mardudjara people of the Western Desert who migrated south from the remote regions. They knew that once they reached Billanooka Station, it was simply a matter of following the rabbit-proof fence to their final destination, the Jigalong government depot; the desert outpost of the white man. The fence cut through the country from south to north. It was a typical response by the white people to a problem of their own making. Building a fence to keep the rabbits out proved to be a futile attempt by the government of the day.
For the three runaways, the fence was a symbol of love, home and security.”
I’ve probably mentioned it a lot of times, but reading is one of my favourite thing in the world, and a great way to practice self-care. I love that feeling of escaping reality… particularly this year! I hope that this selection of books will fuel your wanderlust and make you want to discover more about Australia. As always, feel free to leave a comment or share it below!