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About the book
  • Published: 24 September 2014
  • ISBN: 9781742537870
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 448
Categories:

The Bush




A milestone work of memoir, travel writing and history, The Bush by Don Watson takes us on a profoundly revelatory an entertaining journey through the Australian landscape and character.

Most Australians live in cities and cling to the coastal fringe, yet our sense of what an Australian is – or should be – is drawn from the vast and varied inland called the bush. But what do we mean by 'the bush', and how has it shaped us?

Starting with his forebears' battle to drive back nature and eke a living from the land, Don Watson explores the bush as it was and as it now is: the triumphs and the ruination, the commonplace and the bizarre, the stories we like to tell about ourselves and the national character, and those we don't. Via mountain ash and mallee, the birds and the beasts, slaughter, fire, flood and drought, swagmen, sheep and their shepherds, the strange and the familiar, the tragedies and the follies, the crimes and the myths and the hope – here is a journey that only our leading writer of non-fiction could take us on.

At once magisterial in scope and alive with telling, wry detail, The Bush lets us see our landscape and its inhabitants afresh, examining what we have made, what we have destroyed, and what we have become in the process. No one who reads it will look at this country the same way again.


'Nothing he has written quite matches the wonders of The Bush . . . There is no dull page or even lifeless sentence between its covers and my urge is that if anyone wants a full blast of what Australia is, was, or might be, thrust The Bush into their hands. Watson seems to have been preparing to write it all his life, from when he was a small boy (born 1949) open to wonders on his family's Gippsland dairy farm . . . It's the unalloyed wonder of that small boy . . . that guides the reader most of all . . . a fountaining freshness of spirit that gives everything he sees and does the vivacity of being sighted for the first time.' Roger McDonald, The Age

'Flawlessly elegant writing . . . But this is excellent, hard-headed history, too . . . Utterly mesmerising and entrancing . . . A challenge to contemplate what it really is about this country that makes us who we think we are . . . A literary-historical odyssey.' Paul Daley, The Guardian (Australia)

'A loving rumination on Australia, the landmass, and those who live on it and from it . . . Watson refuses to be captured by easy categorisations or received opinion . . . The writing is crisp, witty and sardonic . . . Watson is an original, with an authentic, prophetic voice.' John Hirst, The Monthly

'An overwhelmingly affectionate portrait, one that's never sentimental or indulgently nostalgic, and one that defiantly resists lamentation . . . There is no doubt that The Bush stands with Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth as one of the most important books published on the history of this country in recent years . . . The Bush is the crown in Watson's oeuvre, a magnificent, sprawling ode to the best in Australia, a challenge to us all to find new ways of loving the country.' The Saturday Paper

'Don Watson's magnificent, celebratory, contradictory study of the Australian bush will challenge the national imagination . . . An amiable, learned, playful and engrossing book . . . [A] great, succulent magic pudding of a book . . . Most of what we read is nothing like we would have expected . . . There is a sense that an amiable and eloquent uncle is telling us everything piquant he knows about theology and culture and land use and the beasts and flora and families of the bush.' Thomas Keneally, Weekend Australian

'The power of this book does come from the way Watson positions himself as both an insider and outsider to the Australian bush . . . A meditation on Australia itself through a reflection on the bush.' Frank Bongiorno, Australian Book Review

'A sprawling, fascinating book . . . Watson has pulled off a marvel, a book that educates and fascinates at the same time as it calls for action to preserve some things before they're lost. The best part, though, is his prose: bare and dry, with a dark sense of humour. A bit like the country he's describing.' Margot Lloyd, The Advertiser (Adelaide)
'Every now and again a book comes out that is so groundbreaking it causes you to think about a particular subject in a radically different light. Don Watson's The Bush: Travels in The Heart of Australia is one such work; a masterpiece of research, inquiry and poetry that challenges our basic assumptions of the Outback. Watson . . . has pulled off a dazzling achievement with The Bush, blending philosophy with science and storytelling . . . A beautifully written and thoughtful book.' Johanna Leggatt, Weekly Times

'Elegant, intricate, sprawling and sometimes harsh . . . [Watson] explores the bush with a mix of academic insight and campfire yarn . . . In a word: hypnotic.' Jeff Maynard, Herald Sun

'His romantic prose moves seamlessly through autobiographical tales to discuss the landscapes and histories that have shaped Australia.' National Geographic

'One of my favourite reads this year. What a writer he is . . . You find yourself sneaking off from others to be with it.' Kathleen Noonan, Courier-Mail

'Vast in scope, richly sourced, soaring and poetic, this journey to the heart of Australia has been rightly compared in significance to Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth.' Barbara Farrelly, South Coast Register

'The Bush is his homage to Australia's mythic hinterland. Watson travels through the Mallee and the Murray-Darling, to WA's wheat belt and beyond, meeting people, talking, listening. Good writing that engages with Australia's past is a rare beast, too often bound up in the need for ''balance''. Watson has the freedom to ignore the rules; he allows himself to opine and he yarns at will. A delightful read.' Mark MacLean, Newcastle Herald

  • Pub date: 24 September 2014
  • ISBN: 9781742537870
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 448

About the Author

Don Watson

Don Watson's books, articles and essays have been widely acclaimed. His bestselling titles include Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: Paul Keating Prime Minister, which won the Age Book of the Year and Non-Fiction Prizes, the Brisbane Courier Mail Book of the Year, the National Biography Award and the Australian Literary Studies Association's Book of the Year, Death Sentence, which won the Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year, Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words, and American Journeys, which won The Age Book of the Year and Non-Fiction Book of the Year, the inaugural Indie Award for Non-Fiction and the Walkley Non-Fiction Award. In 2010 Don was awarded the Phillip Hodgins Memorial Medal for Australian Literature. Since 2003 his website weaselwords.com.au has been documenting the viral spread of management-speak and the decline of public language. His critically acclaimed 2014 book The Bush recently won the Indie Book of the Year and the NSW Premier's Literary Award.

Also by Don Watson

See all

Praise for The Bush

“Nothing he has written quite matches the wonders of The Bush ... There is no dull page or even lifeless sentence between its covers and my urge is that if anyone wants a full blast of what Australia is, was, or might be, thrust The Bush into their hands. Watson seems to have been preparing to write it all his life, from when he was a small boy (born 1949) open to wonders on his family's Gippsland dairy farm ... It's the unalloyed wonder of that small boy ... that guides the reader most of all ... a fountaining freshness of spirit that gives everything he sees and does the vivacity of being sighted for the first time.”

Roger McDonald, The Age

“Flawlessly elegant writing ... But this is excellent, hard-headed history, too ... Utterly mesmerising and entrancing ... A challenge to contemplate what it really is about this country that makes us who we think we are ... A literary-historical odyssey.”

Paul Daley, The Guardian (Australia)

“A loving rumination on Australia, the landmass, and those who live on it and from it ... Watson refuses to be captured by easy categorisations or received opinion ... The writing is crisp, witty and sardonic ... Watson is an original, with an authentic, prophetic voice.”

John Hirst, The Monthly

“An overwhelmingly affectionate portrait, one that's never sentimental or indulgently nostalgic, and one that defiantly resists lamentation ... There is no doubt that The Bush stands with Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth as one of the most important books published on the history of this country in recent years ... The Bush is the crown in Watson's oeuvre, a magnificent, sprawling ode to the best in Australia, a challenge to us all to find new ways of loving the country.”

The Saturday Paper

“Don Watson's magnificent, celebratory, contradictory study of the Australian bush will challenge the national imagination ... An amiable, learned, playful and engrossing book ... [A] great, succulent magic pudding of a book ... Most of what we read is nothing like we would have expected ... There is a sense that an amiable and eloquent uncle is telling us everything piquant he knows about theology and culture and land use and the beasts and flora and families of the bush.”

Thomas Keneally, Weekend Australian

“The power of this book does come from the way Watson positions himself as both an insider and outsider to the Australian bush ... A meditation on Australia itself through a reflection on the bush.”

Frank Bongiorno, Australian Book Review

“A sprawling, fascinating book ... Watson has pulled off a marvel, a book that educates and fascinates at the same time as it calls for action to preserve some things before they're lost. The best part, though, is his prose: bare and dry, with a dark sense of humour. A bit like the country he's describing.”

Margot Lloyd, The Advertiser (Adelaide)

“Every now and again a book comes out that is so groundbreaking it causes you to think about a particular subject in a radically different light. Don Watson's The Bush: Travels in The Heart of Australia is one such work; a masterpiece of research, inquiry and poetry that challenges our basic assumptions of the Outback. Watson ... has pulled off a dazzling achievement with The Bush, blending philosophy with science and storytelling ... A beautifully written and thoughtful book.”

Johanna Leggatt, Weekly Times

“Elegant, intricate, sprawling and sometimes harsh ... [Watson] explores the bush with a mix of academic insight and campfire yarn ... In a word: hypnotic.”

Jeff Maynard, Herald Sun

“His romantic prose moves seamlessly through autobiographical tales to discuss the landscapes and histories that have shaped Australia.”

National Geographic

“One of my favourite reads this year. What a writer he is ... You find yourself sneaking off from others to be with it.”

Kathleen Noonan, Courier Mail

“Vast in scope, richly sourced, soaring and poetic, this journey to the heart of Australia has been rightly compared in significance to Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth.”

Barbara Farrelly, South Coast Register

“The Bush is his homage to Australia's mythic hinterland. Watson travels through the Mallee and the Murray-Darling, to WA's wheat belt and beyond, meeting people, talking, listening. Good writing that engages with Australia's past is a rare beast, too often bound up in the need for ''balance''. Watson has the freedom to ignore the rules; he allows himself to opine and he yarns at will. A delightful read.”

Mark MacLean, Newcastle Herald


Awards & Recognition

  • FAW Award

    Winner • 2014 • Non-Fiction

  • Indie Award

    Winner • 2015 • Non-Fiction

  • NSW Premier's Literary Awards

    Winner • 2015 • Book of the Year

  • Queensland Literary Awards

    Winner • 2015 • Non-Fiction

  • CHASS Australia Prize

    Longlisted • 2015 • Book Award

  • Melbourne Prize for Literature

    Shortlisted • 2015 • Best Writing Award

  • NSW Premier's History Prize

    Shortlisted • 2015 • Australian History Prize

  • NSW Premier's Literary Awards

    Shortlisted • 2015 • Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction

  • Victorian Premier's Literary Award

    Shortlisted • 2015 • Non-Fiction


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