Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Around the World in Eighty Days

Cool cover, no?
Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne

My daughters are doing modern world history this year, which means 1850-present, which means we start with the British Empire and imperialism.  They've been reading books like Things Fall Apart (the 13yo), Just So Stories (the 10yo), and Around the World in 80 Days (13yo again).  And since I have always neglected the works of Verne shamefully, I took the opportunity to read it too.

Phileas Fogg, a wealthy London gentleman whose love of routine, precision, and accuracy makes Hercule Poirot look sloppy, suddenly enters a bet that he can circumnavigate the entire world in 80 days.  This is a feat that has only just become possible in theory, and practically no one thinks it is actually possible.  The least delay--a missed voyage or train, a storm at sea--could derail the whole project.  Mr. Fogg and his new servant, the Frenchman Passepartout, set out that very day.  And hot on their track is a detective determined to arrest Mr. Fogg for an enormous bank robbery!

It's an awfully exciting and funny story.  They manage to gain a little time at first on a steamship, but then they lose it again when it turns out that the trans-India railway isn't quite as finished as the English papers have been claiming, and there are 50 miles of jungle to walk through.  Here they gain another companion, too.  Every time something goes wrong, Phileas Fogg remains calm and comes up with some wild solution, but he is also perfectly willing to risk losing his bet to save a life.

You get a great picture of how the world looked to 19th-century Europeans, and how completely amazing it was to be able to travel so quickly and to so many places.  I really enjoyed this book very much, it's a lot of fun.  I should read more Verne; I've only ever read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and I liked that too.

2 comments:

Ekaterina Egorova said...

I was shaming myself recently for not having read the book. Somehow, after so many adaptations and computer games, I know the plot so well, that I'm neglecting the book itself, and it's not fair. Of Verne's novels I've read The Children of Captain Grant (too long, I was suffering to finish it, but I did), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (loved it!), The Mysterious Island (also quite liked it, and Nemo makes a cameo appearance!) and Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen (This one may be a favourite!). I was always surprised how resourceful Verne's characters are, and I quite enjoyed him as a child.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I've never read anything by Jules Verne, but I keep meaning to. I love old-timey adventure stories. When I was quite small, I had this in like Classics Comics -- they were very wee and had the exciting pictures, and I had 20000 Leagues Under the Sea as well.