|Cool cover, no?|
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.