Book Review: Around The World In 80 Days by Jules Verne

Around The World In 80 Days by Jules Verne - Header

Having been left so disappointed by Falling Sideways by Tom Holt I was suddenly gripped by wanderlust. Mentally I just wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to let my imagination travel, dream and walk upon foreign lands. I didn’t want reality. I didn’t want comedy. I just wanted to be transported from the confines of my life and shown the world. And so I turned, naively, to Jules Verne.

The reason that I say “naively” is because in my mind Verne has this loose connection to hot air ballooning that means I feel some sort of affinity towards him. I think if I’m honest, I decided to read Around The World In 80 Days because I’m so use to seeing images of both hot air and gas balloons associated with it that I was expecting a tale of globe-trotting by balloon. So it came as a bit of a shock when one neve appeared within its pages.

Gas Balloon - Around The World In 80 Days

The fact that lighter than air travel gets nothing more than a passing mention didn’t actually hurt the book though. Around The World In 80 Days is regarded as one of Verne’s best works and having finished it I can see why. The book managed to pull off an amazing trick of being very slow and starchy and yet totally fascinating and engrossing at the same time.

The opening few pages actually had me slightly panicked, because for reasons of simple absent-mindedness it hadn’t occurred to me that Verne novels were old, very old, and thus, written in a language of a previous era. The opening chapters opening up a dialogue of descriptions, worlds and terms that are no longer used. I suddenly thought I’d walked into a story that would provide no enjoyment to read. That I’d spend page after page, constantly confused by the language and rereading passage after passage trying to mentally clarify the text. But thankfully, it never happened.

There were times when there would be words or phrases that are no longer in use, or a social description that’s no longer racially correct and yet, is was never an issue. They were fleeting moments in a wonderful, rich environment that meant I was able to sidestep them, or more often than not, work out what they translate/mean based upon the context in which they use. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that it felt more like a beautiful expansion to the language I have rather than a chore to read.

Route Map - Around The World In 80 Days

This was made all the more surprising by the fact that the story, as I have said, it very slow and starched. It is essentially a stuffy geography lesson inter woven with world topography. It really is just a straight line description of what you pass across if you travel east around the world. The level of cartographic description such that most of the novel means very little unless you’ve been there. To be told that a train, boat or road passes through this village, that town before ending at whichever city means nothing as they are just names in front of you. Giving the story distance but not actually placing you there. But this doesn’t matter, it didn’t bother me that too often it would just feel like chapter after chapter was passing you by like you were simply staring out the window, because slowly and surely, all the little bits add together to make a totally captivating picture.

Even though the narrative is monotonous and passive for large parts, it is the character’s making the journey who bring the novel to life. While they are never fully expanded, you never fully understand their motives and what you learn about them is given by their reactions to the situations they face rather than anything you’re told about their past, their personalities are so inviting and individual that you make friends with them all instantly. Yes this constant looking forward to learn more leaves them clouded in a mystery, but even that teases you forward and makes them fascinating. Intriguing you, making you wonder what they would do next, how things would play out and more I read, the more I happily narrowed my mind, forgetting the bigger questions until I was simply existing on the same day-to-day basis they were.

Around The World In 80 Days (Cast)

Around The World In 80 Days by Jules Verne has completely amazed me. As I said, when I started the opening pages, realising the dated language that awaited me, I thought I’d let myself in for a torrid read and yet instead, I got lost in a story that for every bit of implausible fortune it proclaimed manage to balance it effortlessly with a wonderful romance that meant I would happily read away chapters, lost in the adventure and enjoying. I did, however, find the ending to be a little bit abrupt, losing the warmth and enchantment of the rest of the story because it devolves to science. The result being that as the journey came to an end I became distant from the character and finished the book feeling like I was reading their report” rather than actively participating.

It is arguably the first “classic” novel I have ever read (ignoring William Golding’s Lord of the Flies as I think it more an modern text taught academic, than renowned literacy classic) because I normally shy away from them over my perceived worry with any language barrier, but I’ve enjoyed Around The World In 80 Days so much I might revisit my preconceptions, just don’t expect any Tolstoy quite yet.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

Comments are closed.