Around the World in Eighty Days

by Jules Verne

{ 1873 }

Everyone knows this story, right? Well, I didn’t. I had vague ideas about it involving a hot air balloon and Pierce Brosnan. Wrong on both counts, actually, unless you count the miniseries (which no, I haven’t seen).

In case you’re ignorant like me, here’s a brief summary: a British man (Phileas Fogg) makes a wager with the gentlemen at his club that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. The wager is large –  £20,000 at the time, which Wikipedia kindly informs me would be about $2.2 million today. Yikes. Fogg has just hired a new manservant, Passepartout, and together they have some crazy adventures while Fogg maintains his impassive British demeanor. Seriously. That’s a big theme of the book.

So, do they manage to do it? Chances are you know the answer is yes. But believe it or not, I was taken by surprise that they pulled it off. Verne did a great job of keeping me in suspense until the very end of the book.

Lately I’m leaning more toward classics as my genre of choice, and Around the World in Eighty Days was a great starting point. There was tension, but not too much; there was suspense, and it was well-done; there was typical 19th-century racism, but I expected that. As a side note, I count four major characters in the book, and a host of minor characters, but the female main character (Aouda) is the only woman I recall being in the book at all. Can anyone correct me on this?

At any rate, it’s a really fun read, and if you haven’t picked it up before, now’s the time. We’ll have a virtual book club meeting about it! (I’m not sure it’s quite book-club material. There just isn’t enough controversy. The plot is straightforward and I can’t think of many discussion topics.)

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