Mr. Ritchie is an Australian and a novelist, and this is particularly concerned with explaining the country in terms of the people, the people in terms of the country. Without slighting the usual topics--physical features, natural resources, distinctive wildlife, exploration and settlement--he focuses on Australian traits in general (aggressiveness, vigorous language, male domination, sports -mindedness, informal hospitality) and as related to facets of public life, seen here as a historical continuum. Thus in foreign affairs the Australians feel British, think American; in education they maintain three school systems (Catholic, Protestant ""public,"" state). Particularly probing and pertinent is the discussion of immigration policy; European foreigners are absorbed with less resentment than hitherto, Asiatics and others of ""color"" are still excluded although there is pressure for a quota system. Also of considerable interest is the account of Australia's turbulent labor relations and still-remembered depression which have fostered, jointly, working conditions unequaled in the rest of the world for stability and security. If Mr. Ritchie seems frequently to take a defensive stance, he can be excused as countering misconceptions. Only Geoffrey Blunden's Land and People aims at a comprable age level, and this is incomparably more mature (i.e. topical, candid, perceptive); Blunden outlines more of the history but this is where the action is, out back and in government, yesterday and today.