Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne


This book by French author Jules Verne, was first published in french in 1873 as La Tour du Monde en Quatre-vingts Jour.  The plot takes place in the year of 1872, the main character is the eccentric, but most English man, Phileas Fogg.

Phileas is described as being vastly rich without apparent means of fortune, He belongs to the exclusive Reform Club, populated with other gents of his kind.  He is unmarried, childless, and rarely leaves London.  He is precisely pedantic, living a systematically ordered life, timed to the minute.  His character is made plain swiftly, we learn that he has fired his servant James because he brought his shaving water to him at a temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 86.  That says it all right there really, and this made me think Mr Fogg was a bit of an egg, but I changed my mind, and now I love him!  (Seriously!)

Fogg hires the french Passepartout as his new servant in the morning and heads off to the Reform Club for his daily ritual of breakfasting, reading the paper, lunching, reading some more, and then dinner.  After reading a few books from this time period, I have the impression that being a respectable gentleman means doing bugger all and eating a lot of meals… but I digress.  At the club, Fogg plays Whist (also a favourite of Jane Austen’s characters) and during his card game a discussion regarding “modern transportation” and how quickly it might be possible to circumnavigate the globe.  Fogg cooly asserts that it could be done in 80 days, everyone scoffs, and they make a wager of 20,000 pounds that Fogg could not be back within 80 days, 21st of December, at a quarter to 9pm.  As a matter of honour Fogg leaves the club immediately and heads home to tell Passepartout that they are both going around the world, and travelling light.

I feel like I’m talking about the plot a lot.  To save time: there is a complication in the form of the character – Detective Fix.  Fix’s character provides a bit of tension to the story line, and a bit of humour as well.

The journey itself is outlined clearly with a general listing of all the transport that will be taken, what time, where and when.  It’s a pretty entertaining adventure.  There are the expected set backs and conflicts that you would hope from a decent adventure story.  The character of Fogg really supports the plot narrative.  He is a cool, calm and collected man in the face of challenges and danger.  He is also brave, but does all this without saying much, or giving away much emotion.  He is the original “strong, silent type” of man.  Passepartout balances Fogg’s coolness with comedic misfortunes.

There is even romance, as only romance could be done in 1872!  This story really has it all.  Except a balloon.  I vaguely remember that there was a hot air balloon in the Jackie Chan movie, and when I did a little post-reading research I found out that the image of a hot air balloon has become closely associated with the novel despite there been no hot air balloon in it.  With or without a balloon, this book was great.  I really really enjoyed it.  I like a good adventure story, and this was definitely one of those.  The characters were refreshing, and it was entertaining throughout, and it also had an unexpected ending.  The chapters were relatively brief, and the story itself wasn’t that long, it only took me a few days altogether I think to finish it.  I would totally recommend it to anyone who likes light hearted entertaining adventure stories.

Woohoo!  Only ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ to go on the second book list!  I sneakily got ‘Moby Dick’ and an Agatha Christie to keep me going.  I also started ‘Live and Let Die’ by Ian Flemming.  So I have a lot to be getting on with.  I hope they are as enjoyable to read as this, but as I am learning, each book is unique!  Happy reading everyone!


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