Burke & Wills
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Adventures into the unknown don’t come more epic than that attempted by Burke and Wills. Nineteen men left Melbourne in 1860 to explore a route to the Gulf of Carpentaria. From Coopers Creek, four went ahead on their own. Burke and Wills reached the Gulf in February 1861, but died from starvation and exhaustion on their return journey.
Legendary, heroic and foolhardy—many know something about the nuts and bolts of what happened. In Peter FitzSimons’ excellently researched account of the expedition’s ‘triumphs and tragedies’ he pulls no punches—poor leadership and reckless decisions contributed to what went wrong. But nearly 160 years on, the anguish, the despair and the ‘if onlys’ still fascinate.
FitzSimons’ colourful narrative style won’t please all readers, and others will be tempted to skim through non-essential details. In spite of these factors, perseverance is rewarded in this rollicking retelling of one of Australia’s greatest stories.