Monday, June 20, 2011

Around the World in Eighty Days

Around the World in Eighty Days is one of those classics that I kept saying I would get around to reading. I needed to read it for the June 22 Fiction by Night book discussion, and like most "required reading", I had to make myself sit down with the book and just start reading.

Almost immediately I got pulled into Jules Verne's story and found that I liked the characters and looked forward to reading the next chapter. I was also enjoying the experience of reading it on my new e-reader, finding that I could increase the size of the print, that when I turned off my e-reader that it held my place.

I found myself escaping on this adventure with Phileas Fogg, the unemotional English gentleman who has too much time on his hands, and perhaps, too much money. He spends his days at his club and makes a wager that he can make it around the world in a mere 80 days. His valet Passepartout, however, enjoys the sights and sounds and people in the countries they are madly traveling through. Fogg spends a number of days by rail and steamer simply playing endless hours of whist with like-minded English gents who are not interested in anything outside their own realm of experience. It was interesting to see Fogg gradually slip out of his "fog" and begin to experience the adventure. Passepartout unwittingly forces Fogg to get involved with others. By the end of the adventure, we see that Fogg has changed.

There is added tension to the plot. Detective Fix of Scottland Yard is following Fogg, whom he suspects of stealing 50,000 pounds from a bank. I was afraid this might be too contrived -- how could he follow Fogg without raising any suspicions? Would this book end up being resolved by a lot of convuluted coincidences?

I remember when the big 1956 movie production of Around the World in Eighty Days came out. It won an academy award for Best Picture of the Year. I suppose the movie is responsible for me associating hot air balloons with the book. Even the Bantam paperback edition has hot air ballons on the cover.

It's amazing to think of living in a time when travel was slow and unpredictable. Railways lines could end before you were at your destination. Phileas Fogg proved he was resourceful and determined. Does he make the trip in eight days? Read the book and come discuss it with the rest of group this Wednesday night.

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