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Burke and Wills

The Triumph and Tragedy of Australia's Most Famous Explorers
Narrated by: Michael Carman
Length: 23 hrs and 43 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (321 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The iconic Australian exploration story - brought to life by Peter FitzSimons, Australia's storyteller.

'They have left here today!' he calls to the others. When King puts his hand down above the ashes of the fire, it is to find it still hot. There is even a tiny flame flickering from the end of one log. They must have left just hours ago.

Melbourne, 20 August 1860. In an ambitious quest to be the first Europeans to cross the harsh Australian continent, the Victorian Exploring Expedition sets off, with 15,000 well-wishers cheering them on. Led by Robert O'Hara Burke, a brave man totally lacking in the bush skills necessary for his task; surveyor and meteorologist William Wills; and 17 others, the expedition took 20 tons of equipment carried on six wagons, 23 horses and 26 camels.

Almost immediately plagued by disputes and sackings, the expeditioners battled the extremes of the Australian landscape and weather: its deserts, the boggy mangrove swamps of the Gulf, the searing heat and flooding rains. Food ran short and, unable to live off the land, the men nevertheless mostly spurned the offers of help from the local indigenous people.

In desperation, leaving the rest of the party at the expedition's depot on Coopers Creek, Burke, Wills, Charley Gray and John King made a dash for the Gulf in December 1860. Bad luck and bad management would see them miss by just hours a rendezvous back at Coopers Creek, leaving them stranded in the wilderness with practically no supplies. Only King survived to tell the tale. Yet, despite their tragic fates, the names of Burke and Wills have become synonymous with perseverance and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. They live on in our nation's history - and their story remains immediate and compelling.

©2017 Peter FitzSimons (P)2017 Hachette Australia

What listeners say about Burke and Wills

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A good book

Worth the download. Greatly read and a insight to our beautiful country. If you want a good aussie book... This is the one

1 person found this helpful

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A remarkable Experience. Fantastic Performance.

Peter Fitzsimons has out done himself with this one. Perfectly researched. Fantastic storyline it was a joy. Michael Carman is a genius and possibly the best Australian Narrator I have listened to. He nailed the accents which gave perfect character to the players. Highly Recommended to everyone interested in the highs and lows of Australian history.

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Repeating

I was expecting a more accurate description of the places they stayed at in modern area. I tried to follow this story but was lost just like some of the characters. I had to watch a you tube story of Burke and wills to get a better understanding of where they were travelling and stopping.On the good side i found the use of the different dialects very helpful. I think at least 10 hours could have been taken off about whats in the wagons and whats on the camels back and replaced wioth a better description of the flora and fauna on the trip.

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Narrator drives me crazy

I am so disappointed. I absolutely love this author. But I had to stop in Chapter One as the narrator is acting and voicing so hard it’s a distraction.

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Great book, well researched. Poor narration.

I recently finished this book and enjoyed it very much. It was very well-researched and thorougly explores the finer details of the back story. The one disappointment was the narration. The narrator's voice was fine for the most part, but his ability to perform the accents of the characters was exceedingly poor to the point that it distracts from the listener's enjoyment. His Burke accent is dreadful. Burke was from Galway yet, for some reason he performs the accent in an unusual Ulster type accent. In fact, all of his Irish accents, no matter where on the island they hailed from - Galway, Tyrone, Dublin - are performed with this same, crass imitation of an Ulster accent. It wasn't just the Ulster accents that were poor though. His performance of Wills' accent was bizarre, giving him and his father this strange American type accent despite the fact that they both hailed from Devon. I highly recommend the actor in question refrains from performing accents until he he is properly trained to do so.

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Fascinating Reading/Listening

Well narrated-kept listener engaged-loved it- travelling and living in Channel Country it was great to learn more about the History of the area

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Absolutely Brilliant

I enjoyed it immensely. Another brilliant effort by Peter FitzSimons. Michael Carmen's narration was excellent!

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slow start and prolonged end

a slow start to the story but very informative and historical, and the end was a bit prolonged but still very enjoyable.

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Wish it was 10 hours smaller

Not quite historical, it's full of hindsights and anachronisms. Frustrating as a narrative. Nicely narratted

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Great history lesson.

I loved the story. Very thorough . At times the details became heavy going but enjoyable.

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  • Diane Reppun
  • 25-01-2018

great book a little slow to begin with.

I found the earlier parts a little slow but then the overall story and how I was told was very engaging I would recommend this to anybody who wants to know about Australian history

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nicholas Robinson
  • 08-05-2020

This Yarn Is Rather Needling—Off The Rails, Even

I suppose I should have known what was coming; after all, I own the title "James Cook," written and read by the same pair as on this book. But truth be told, I had forgotten. Otherwise I may well have run the other way, pursued by literary camels. I'm not sure quite what irritates me the most; it's either the narrator's attempts to go beyond the call of duty or the decision of the author to write this entire tome IN THE PRESENT TENSE. Now just let me say that the Historical Present is a very common device that we ourselves use many times in everyday conversation, ie. "Okay, so he says to me "Ya gotta do certain things," and I'm not going to argue with him so I say" . . . and so on and so one. Snippets of the historical present are, thus, not without precedent. BUT . . . choosing to write an entire historical narrative, not unsubstantial in sheer page numbers, is, at best an extremely odd decision, and at worst, an appalling and *constantly* intrusive literary choice which to my mind is completely unnecessary and is likely an attempt to draw attention to itself, as in "Oh yeah, isn't he the guy who writes all his stuff in the present tense?" I can imagine this being done as a literary device with short histories, possibly about highly actionable military engagements, "The Hurricane begins his dive at 32,000 feet and comes barrelling in, guns blazing at the dozens of Messerschmitts arrayed below" etc. etc. . . . HOWEVER, as a device for a 700+ page narrative about a long, drawn out, somewhat static journey with sharp bursts of frantic activity notably few and far between, it's a rather poor decision. (Imagine The Rise & Fall of Nazi Germany, all in the present tense—it would be, to put it mildly, excruciating.) So there's that, and then there is the narrator's decision to do "accents." This is about as interesting as it is to watch one of those 60s "assemble-cast" movies about WWII, where the Germans speak English to each other with varying degrees of a German accent. That's presumably so we won't confuse the men in the German uniforms with the ones in the British ones. But in this narrator's mind, "accents" consist of varying degrees of Irish mixed with German, except with the character of Ferguson, who speaks with an odd pseudo-American accent with nibbles of Scots, Austro-Hungarian and South African mixed in. To be clear: the "accents" don't work, and the narrator seems to agree with this, as they invariably peter out back into a hybrid German-Irish accent, which is the narrator's preferred "Now someone of a different ethnicity is speaking" mode. And all this combines to provoke unbidden irritation, as the entire story is rambling, disjointed, and all over the place . . . with the Historical Present used throughout the whole thing, accents and all, adds up to a barely coherent mess, and I'm only half-way through! Oh, and I forgot the constant preoccupation with wordplay; puns, alliteration, rhymes, internal debates—all sorts of private subtexts with which the author seems inordinately proud; "I'm JOKING here! Get the joke? "Hare" and ""hair"—I made a joke with them, did you notice?" and that is pretty much on every page. Again this sort of thing probably works better on the printed page, but reading it allowed (allowed/aloud! Get it? Get it?) is a different matter. All this detracts from what is ostensibly the documentation of a serious and sometimes tragic journey undertaken by a band of determined bumblers through the wastes of the Australia outback . . . humorous aspects of the enterprise no doubt abound, but in the end, men and camels died and indigenous peoples' lands were invaded and seized, so a certain degree of non-levity should probably be the tome here. (Tome/tone . . . get it?) All in all, a project that was in reality off the rails provides the basis for a documenting of itself which is, faithfully, off the rails.

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  • Ramanda Brockett
  • 19-08-2019

Not my personal favorite

gave it a good try, dragged until half way through. I realized that this historical account had too much suffering and waiting around for me to be excited to hear what happened next.

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  • Than
  • 30-06-2019

The part about the photographs still makes me mad

I'm still stewing about the part about 3 hours from the end talking about the photographs. But aside from that the book itself is great, Interesting story I knew nothing about beforehand. The misconceptions by rescue parties searching for them about the aborigines really shows the flawed logic in a lot of the missing Leichhardt expedition theories of the same time. I feel bad for the horses and camels. I feel bad for the people. So many mistakes were made. I'm glad we have one witness to history in John King.

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  • Erick
  • 09-04-2019

Brilliant narration

This was an amazing book with an excellent narrator in Michael carman. He really brings the story to life.

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  • Adrian
  • 25-03-2018

Bravery and wisdom.

The story of Burke and Wills is an amazing account of a true expedition to journey through the centre of Australia in 1860. There are many characters involved but large degree Grey between the heroes and villians. Misfortune and mismanagement frequently hound the expedition. Add to this a touch of the exotic, with the young nation drawing upon different nationalities to accompany the expedition. Not to forget the somewhat novel use of camels, as well as the frequent interactions with the natives. Loved every word of this book, and was rewarded by the extensive coverage given to the Royall Commision afterwards, further analysing the many failures of communication and management, that led to Burke and Wills being abandoned. As for King, there's a character who clearly suffered depression following his rescue. If you've never read about the story of Burke and Wills, then look no further than Peter FitzSimons version for a vivid and thorough account.

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  • Michael
  • 20-06-2019

Very political!

Disappointed. Ive read several of Peter FitzSimons previously & found them full of action and enjoyable reading. Burke and Wills although full of relevant facts its vey slow going and difficult to keep interested in. I found it somewhat boring as it took so long for the journey to start and all the detailed political commentary, although no doubt relevant and factual, didn't do it for me. Although I learnt a lot from listening to this book, I wouldn't recommend it if you like exciting books.