Saturday, 22 December 2012
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Although I've never read Around the World in Eighty Days in it's entirety before, I remember reading some extracts from it during English lessons in secondary school and finding it rather dull. So I decided to add it to my Classics Club list to find out whether I was just too young for it, or whether it's simply not a book for me. And the good news is that I found it anything but dull on this read. As a teenager, I completely missed the wit that Verne sprinkles throughout the novel, but this time I fully appreciated the sarcasm and the gentle way Verne pokes fun at Fogg and English gentlemen of the nineteenth century. Verne doesn't take his novel too seriously, and as a result it's enjoyable to read. Yes, the attitudes expressed by the characters and author are in line with what you would expect from the times (there's a lot of casual colonial prejudice), but Verne also mocks these views too. In fact, I couldn't quite work out whether Verne agreed with Fogg or not. There's a light-heartedness about the whole novel that was refreshing.
I like to think that Verne saw himself as a bit of a Passepartout. Whilst Fogg is cloistered in his train carriage, uninterested in seeing the sights anywhere he goes, Passepartout is the one that seizes the opportunity of travel. Compared to Fogg's almost ludicrous English stiff-upper-lip attitude, Passepartout comes across as impulsive, brave and in many ways, the real hero of the novel. There's a lot of mocking of the English but it comes across as gentle and you get the sense that Verne was an Anglophile after all.
What I love about classics is the way they make me think, and Around the World in Eighty Days was no exception. Although the story was light and action-packed, it made me think about the nature of travel. I couldn't believe that Fogg was visiting all those wonderful places but yet showing no desire to get to know them, remaining focused simply on getting around the world just so he could say that he had. I love to travel, especially by train, and many of the journeys in the book made me think back over my own experiences. Travel should be savoured, not rushed. Passepartout reminded me that we should make the most of every opportunity that comes our way, not remain locked up inside of ourselves, like Fogg.
However, there were elements I didn't enjoy about Around the World in Eighty Days. As Fogg shows no interest in the countries he visits, it's left up to Verne to fill us in on them and it comes across as lecturing at times. The whole mistaken identity thing with Inspector Fix drags on for too long and becomes too much like a comedy of errors; I was tired of it by the end of the novel. The romance was implausible and felt like an add-on rather than central to the story. But none of these things take away from the fact that Around the World in Eighty Days is a good old-fashioned adventure story full of drama and excitement. I'm glad that I read it.
Source: Personal Copy
First Published: 1873
My Edition: Penguin UK, 2008
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Classics Club: Book 4/72.
You can see a list of the classics I intend to read here.
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This book is on my Classics Club list too and I'm really looking forward to it after reading your review. It does seem a shame to visit all those countries and not to show any interest in actually seeing them!ReplyDelete
As I love to travel, I felt it was almost criminal behaviour! I hope you enjoy the book :)Delete
I have a book to read that is a non-fiction account of a race between Nellie Bly and another woman (Elizabeth something) to go around the world in less than 80 days in response to Verne's novel. I am looking forward to reading it, though I don't know if I'd like to read Verne's book itself :-)ReplyDelete
That sounds interesting, what's the title? After reading Around the World I'd love to pick it up.Delete
See, I liked the fact that Fogg didn't care about the countries he visited. It was all about the bet. He's not going to waste time sightseeing. The other things, however, I agree.ReplyDelete
It definitely fit with his character but it bugged me as I love to travel myself and couldn't understand his attitude. Even when he had time to waster (e.g. boat not leaving for six hours), he still showed no interest.Delete
I had a similar experience with this book -- reading it as a teenager and then discovering later that it was much funnier than I remembered. I don't think my younger self got the humor in any of the Jules Verne books.ReplyDelete
I'm glad I gave it another chance, I don't think I was mature enough to get the humour as a teenager. It makes me want to pick up some more Verne books :)Delete
I want to read something by Jules Verne, but I tried 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea this year and found it dull. Verne seems a lot more interested in the mechanics of undersea travel than in his characters. This one sounds more interesting though.ReplyDelete
I've seen a few reviews of 20,000 Leagues that mention that it's all about the mechanics of travel. Around the World isn't like that, it is about the journey and arriving on time, but it's also about the characters.Delete
This is one I've always wanted to read.ReplyDelete
You should give it a go :)Delete
Sometimes the humor in funny classics is just dated. I can read it and appreciate why it's supposed to be funny without finding it particularly amusing. But there are some books that are funny in a timeless way. I'd like to read this- I've never read Verne and feel like I probably should.ReplyDelete
Susan, it is dated in the sense of the English gentlemen stereotypes were certainly of their time, but in this case it was still funny. I enjoyed this book, but don't think you should read anything just because you feel like you should!Delete
I haven't read this and now I can't remember if it's on my Classics Club list or not, lol. I hope it is!ReplyDelete
I hope it is too, I think you would like this one :)Delete
read this years ago, but not why I'm here, Best wishes for Xmas & the coming year.ReplyDelete
I love Jules Verne, grew up reading and rereading The Mysterious Island and In Search of the Castaways. Pity neither of these are well-known here, American readers are missing so much!ReplyDelete