Part family reminiscence, part social history, part lecture, The Bush is a rambling discourse on rural Australia past and present, intertwined with quotes from selected bush poets and colonial diarists, some early-explorer history, quite a lot about Aborigines (interesting) and a plenitude of information about Australian botany and wildlife. At over 400 pages, the amount of information contained in the book is impressive.
I enjoyed both the feeling of recognition I gained from Watson’s portrayals of places familiar to me such as Gippsland, the Mallee and the northern rivers area of NSW, and from learning the backstory of events now half forgotten, such as the soldier settlement movement after the Great War.
As a social history, I felt it was disappointingly one-sided, with little about women in the bush even when there exists plenty of material the author could have used. On the other hand, Watson writes with much enthusiasm about natural and economic history and he keeps the reader’s interest with droll anecdotes and pithy observations.