BOOK REVIEW: AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS – JULES VERNE

Published in 1873 this classic remains relevant. It is a well-researched and somewhat inspiring account of the daring attempt of navigating around the world in no more than 80 days; a feat which was regarded as impossible at the time. This was in fulfillment of a wager Phileas Fogg had committed to with five members of the Reform Club with whom he regularly played a card game called whist.

The man was rightly regarded as a reclusive, enigmatic, eccentric and exacting English gentleman whose fortune no one could account for. He set out on the perilous voyage in the company of his servant, Passepartout, who also happened to be a Frenchman just like the author. The contrast in the characters of the master and the servant betrays the prevailing juxtaposition of the English and the French temperaments. In those days the English were regarded as level-headed, cultured, intelligent, civilized and authoritative people as opposed to the French who were seen as impulsive, emotionally-labile and loud-mouthed. This of course was just another progeny of the English propaganda expounded to pacify their imperialistic conquests.

I read the book with the assistance of a 19th century world map and was thoroughly impressed with the geographical accuracy of Verne’s story. I was also convinced that all means of travel used in the story were indeed available at the time of writing. The voyage was largely partaken with the aid of ships and trains. A fascinating twist was the use of an elephant in ferrying the travelers across a size-able portion of India.

No good story is devoid of an adversary and this came in the form of a detective by the convenient name of Mr Fix who wanted to ‘fix’ Fogg by arresting him for the robbery of the Bank of England. This accusation was of course untrue but it added an interesting suspense in the story. It is almost impossible for the reader not to loathe Mr Fix for his narrow-mindedness which I think is still prevalent in modern detectives as depicted in television and contemporary literature. It is also impossible for one not to be irritated by the stupidity of Passerpartout who at each turn cost his master dearly with his childish shenanigans.

My only criticism of the book is the implausibily of Phileas Fogg’s lack of emotional versatility. It is almost as if the man was a robot!! He was completely devoid of any emotion and his interests were so restricted that I felt at some point Verne was going to shock me with a wild revelation that Fogg was in actual fact a relative of Frankenstein’s monster. Of course Verne redeemed himself by concluding the book with an unlikely romance.

This book is a must-read for all true lovers of literature. FIVE STARS.

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