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The Lucky Country

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  393 ratings  ·  39 reviews
When it was first published in 1964, 'The Lucky Country' caused a sensation. Horne took Australian society to task for its philistinism, provincialism and dependence. The book was a wake-up call to an unimaginative nation, an indictment of a country mired in mediocrity and manacled to its past.
Paperback, 300 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published 1964)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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Greg
Pungent. Much of the analysis still applicable today 2015 with a conservative government in Canberra, a prime minister exhuming knighthoods on Australia Day. Is progress an illusion?

The chapter on Menzies, a valuable record for future reference.

The chapter 'Living with Asia' worth reading again today, gives an understanding of how Asia views Australia.

Other topics I'd highlight are:- Nation without a mind, The first suburban nation, Snobs, Women, Between Britain and America, Lost bearings,
...more
Justin Evans
Mainly an interesting period piece, but always good to know where hackneyed phrases come from, particularly if, as in this case, they get misused: Australia is a lucky country, it turns out, because even though our politicians and other 'leadership' types are entirely incompetent, the state somehow struggles on. Horne writes well, and he's funny, but it's unclear to me whether his fundamental argument was true: was Australia really a country being held back by a lack of ambition and gusto at the ...more
notgettingenough
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: australian, sociology
2 February 2011
Update

One of the things that makes Australians feel so lucky is, having satisfactorily subjugated the indigenous population, it has never really faced an external threat. We have sent, I suspect, more than our fair share of men to fight other people's wars, if you like, but despite Japanese bombing of part of Australia in WWII, we are rarely concerned with such issues.

And yet.

We have this incredible balancing enemy within: the weather. To have watched the bushfires a couple of
...more
Mikael
who cares if donald horne meant it ironically, it bloody is a fucken lucky cuntree
Mitchell
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it
"The lucky country" is a phrase any Australian is familiar with, one often applied with beaming happiness to things like Vegemite advertisements or Australia Day speeches. Yet few Australians would be able to quote the sentence it originally appeared in: "Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck."

Donald Horne wrote The Lucky Country in the early 1960s as a stark assessment of a nation he felt had lost its way. Australia possessed fabulous natural
...more
Paul
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Funny - I don't feel very lucky.

I know! Horne was just being sarcastic, much like Men At Work were when they wrote "Land Down Under".

But really, I don't feel lucky. Were fast heading for a healthcare crisis, housing is unaffordable for most of the population, we are the most over-taxed, and over-governed nation in the world, yet we hand out way too much in welfare payments and of course, theres Australias Greed Tax. Greed Tax? Anything we import (which is almost everything because weve
...more
Andrew Carr
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
We are now fifty odd years since The Lucky Country's publication, and it's hard to see what all the fuss was about. Donald Horne provides rambling short essays about a dozen aspects of society (a form many of his other publications also take) . His greatest intellectual strength is a non-doctrinaire opinion, but other than not saying what has already been said, it's unclear what is valuable about what he does say.

If you've heard the book's most famous line, "Australia is a lucky country run
...more
Leir
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Horne's sprawling though concise work of social criticism exposed Australia and Australians not to sheer vitriol but to a reasoned lament of the mediocrity of it's "elites" and many the negative elements of Australian society in the 1960s, especially of general apathy and malaise.

Yet even today many of the things he talks about are not only as relevant as ever (for instance, his assessment of Australian republicanism still holds mostly true 50 years, which is actually quite sad) and even when
...more
Nicole Naunton
Jul 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book was written in the mid-1960s but is relevant today because Australia still faces similar dilemmas. Having said that, Australia has come a long way from those days so it is helpful and interesting to understand which paths we chose to take and why, and why we are the people we are.

I found the middle section dull because I am more interested in the social changes than politics. Although, it was interesting to learn about the role the Communists played in Australian politics and some of
...more
Nico Battersby
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have a lot of issues with my country. And while it wouldnt be possible to air these grievances with my fellow countrymen, its comforting to know that someone recognised those very same issues 60 years before. ...more
Richard
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: social, cultural, history
as a time capsual yes it has some interest but read in todays light it's just 200 pages of whinging
Andrew
Horne's controversial 1964 book is a problematic read in 2018, because at times one is expected to know and understand the Australia that he was writing about, and at others one is diverted or focused on how different (or same) contemporary Australia is to the vision he posited 54 years ago.

The first thing that does need to be said is that Horne's criticisms 'feel' valid, insofar as they are the starting points for much of the critical discourse about Australia since the book was published.
...more
Sean
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly interesting and relevant for a book about Australia written over 50 years ago.
- insights into the society in which I was being raised and which clearly implanted certain notions
- a tart assessment of Australian intellectual, business, and political leadership (or lack thereof), that is not entirely unrecognisable today
- some excellent predictions of where the country needed to go and which have held up strongly
- some others that thankfully didnt pan out
- a window into conventions,
...more
Lily Sharp
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
First published in 1964, The Lucky Country by Donald Horne reveals the typical character of the Australian people, their national spirit, their strengths, weaknesses and the possible direction for our future.

What I liked
✅ witty, robust, insightful writing

✅ lays bare the basic truths of Australian life which linger under the surface, expressing it in an easy-to-digest way

✅ valid and insightful criticisms on the weaknesses of Australia and its people

What I didn't like
✖ the book overestimated the
...more
Lennox Nicholson
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Menzies orientated (that was the time) but there is a classic passage toward the end of the text where University lecturers stated the quality of graduates in their basic writing and mathematics is diminishing. This was published in 1961.
My cousin, a Professor at a prominent tertiary institution, told me the exact same thing a week ago at a family bbq. So it has been a problem for over 50 years and it doesn't seem to have changed. Best someone pass this on to the Minister for Education?
A.
"What is lacking among Australians is a real feel for the history of the human race, and a sense of belonging to a long-lasting intellectual community that reaches its great moments when it seeks out in wonder towards the mysteries of its environment, that has concerned itself with more momentous problems than the nature of Australia but whose present members could well take this question up in the light of the history of human knowledge." (pp. 213)
Nguyen Santiago
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australia-nz
A lot has changed, happily mostly for the better (and often along the lines Horne has laid out). This is a significant book both for historical background and for understanding the Australia of today. Horne is a witty, weighty and incisive writer with rare perspective, both in 1964 and in the excellent preface to the 5th edition, written in 1998.
John Nowlan
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book has aged without a doubt as Australia is now more multicultural with a more diverse set of values but it's key tenet of the county being lucky and ran by second rate individuals remains true.
Julian Bu
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Funny and insightful at times.
Sübi Polat
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The contents of the book is still relevant in 2018. Worth your time!
Bill Brown
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A significant period piece where surprisingly many of the sections raised by Donald Horne still ring true today.
Matt Mallard
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I was surprised to learn that the title of this book was actually meant to be ironic back in 1964. I can confidently say, like most Australians, that I am from the "lucky country". e.g This has become a common catchphrase amongst Australians traveling overseas.
Thank God we have shaken off the apparent inferiority complex and cultural desert that Horne writes about as Australia in the 1950s & 1960s. Australian entertainers are now some of the highest profile musicians & actors on the
...more
Jess
"The lucky country" is a phrase so overused and, as Horne notes in his foreword, so abused; while understood clearly at the time of its original publication, Horne's heavy irony somehow became lost over the subsequent decades, no matter how often we are reminded that he didn't mean it as a good thing.

Shamefully, this is the first time I have read this book, despite having made blithe reference to it in class for years. What is astonishing - and I think several other reviews have noted this - is
...more
Anthony Stell
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Hmm... Pretty scathing critique of Australia, and though they claim it's a timeless classic I think it's heavy opinions were showing their age a bit (and it is properly old: for instance, PNG was still a colony). The idea of Australia being run by second-rates, hardly any intellectuals, and a pervasive sense of it still being "British" certainly doesn't strike me as true (though I don't know if urban Melbourne gives the most representative view on that). Plus the writing was pretty tricky to ...more
Paul
This book got a lot right about Australia, sometime surprisingly so for something written a few decades ago now. The sections on our cities, immigration, society, our position in relation to Great Britain, America and Asia, religion, and "the Australian dream" were interesting and well written. I got a little lost in the political sections though, too much talk of Menzies, and in the final sections where Horne really tries to nail in his thesis.
Henry
Dec 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Much of Horne's analysis is still relevant today, and so I recommend that you read the preface to the latest edition (5th or 6th) where he enlightens the reader as to what has occurred since the time of writing, it's astonishing how much we have changed and also how very little. This book resonated with me as an Australian who finds himself frustrated with Australian non-culture, and lack of intellectual spaces in society.
Michael O'Donnell
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The writing is wonderful. A good read.

If you are interested in Australian history and Australian politics and lived through the 60's this is a 5 star book.

Can all of it be believed as truth? No. Call all of it be believed as a 60's point of view? Yes.

Compare its assessment of Australia with your assessment of Australia today. Government, Economy, Asia presence. USA/UK. Aborigines.

If you are not interested in Australian history and Australian politics do not bother.


Row Dela Rosa Yoon
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australia
First published in 1964, it is called an Australian classic. Controversial, thought-provoking. Who can forget David Horne's claim that "Australia is a Lucky Country run by second-rate people who come to share its luck." Horne provides a glimpse of post-war Australia, its provincialism and laidbackness that reflect the era.
Rob Manwaring
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ace. read this in Melbourne as a distraction. I just wish I had read this before I moved to Australia. Horne wrote this in the 1960s, and it is a sketch of Australia, which still rings many truths today. His central thesis is that Australia is lucky by default, and governed by second rate leaders. The dissection of government, and key social groups is insightful, and indeed very funny.
Holly
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book.

I'm not 100% sure I agreed with all the statements about being "Australian" specifically the parts regarding egalitarianism, but I think that is the beauty of reading this book 48 years after it was published. I can consider my opinion of Australia today in comparision to Horne's opionion from 1964.
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