Book Review: The Bush by Don Watson

The Bush by Don Watson

While most of us live in cities clinging to the coastal fringe, 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.

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


This is a very large, well researched and interesting history of the Australian bush. It follows the march of European settlement into the hinterland to work the land as pastoralists or miners. In doing so, millions of acres of forests and bush land were cleared and we are reaping the results of this today. Without tree cover weeds proliferated, fertile topsoil was washed into rivers and streams, impeding their flow, water became scarce causing soil salination and native animals have been driven into near extinction. It’s difficult to condense such a detailed narrative into a few lines, however the book is very interesting, though provoking and topical without being too didactic.

“This reads more like a thesis, so is not ideal for a Book Club; it would be unfair to give it a rating”.

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