Friday, April 11, 2008

Jules Verne

Around the World in Eighty Days
by Jules Verne
Recommended Age: 12+

Nowadays you can probably go around the world in eighty hours. But in 1873, the year in this work was published, it was quite a novelty to be able to go around the world in 80 days. In fact, the whole plot of the book is that the world's most confirmed creature of habit, Phileas Fogg, bets a fortune at his gentleman's club that he can do exactly that, thanks to the latest advances in train and steamship transportation.

Beginning from London with his fiercely loyal servant Passepartout, Fogg starts running into trouble at the Suez Canal. While he is battling to stay on schedule in spite of set back after ridiculous setback, he is also being pursued by a relentless Detective Fix, who believes that Fogg has just robbed a bank in London and is trying to make his getaway. From Arabia to India to China, from Singapore to Hong Kong to Japan, across the wide Pacific and the wild West, we follow Fogg's madcap quest, his unlucky but determined servant, his lady love, and the unstoppable Fix, in which they ride the rails, windsurf, rent elephants, and race across the seven seas, winding up in an outrageous surprise on their return to London.

Of course you have to read it knowing that 80 days would be a ridiculously long time - but how often have you been around the world, after all? And if you did, would it be nearly as exotic as the world of 1876, in which Fogg witnesses bizarre religious rituals, acrobatic displays, every kind of scenery, and some silly customs too? Imagine what you would see if you were traveling too fast to see much of anything... the way Fogg does it, you might accidentally see everything!

EDIT: Jules Verne (1828-1905) wrote around 75 novels of travel and adventure! Wow! This one has been made into two movies, one of which was the Best Picture of 1956, and the other a mediocre 2004 vehicle for Jackie Chan. Other Verne classics include A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island, and (completed and published after his death) The Lighthouse at the End of the World.

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