Book: Around the World in Eighty Days
Author: Jules Verne
Bookhad Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Like it happens in schools, we had a certain set of awards to be won every year. The winners would be given a storybook/novel as a prize. I must say that I was inducted into reading through the books I won. Our teachers would pick the most amazing novels for the prizes. It is a great debt that I know I will never be able to repay. We used to get the colorful encyclopedias, classics, and never the riff-raff that we didn’t know was riff-raff until much later. One such book that I received is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I still have the copy; you could easily pass it off as a book that came from a great old library. To be honest, it did.
The impression of the classics on a young mind is not realized by the child until much later. For example, the book in question. I know for a fact that I have not read an abridged version of this book in my youngest days, but it snugly fits into the category of books that should be given on winning a prize. I am sure, my teachers gave it out to someone during the years. It just wasn’t me. Having bought this book off a famous, aged library in Bengaluru and having read it, unabridged, from cover to cover, I am reminded of my school days – full of stories and wonder. Around the World in Eighty Days, as you would know is a book from the science fiction genre (back then, now it’s just an adventure book) that, as its title suggests, is about traveling the world in 80 days.
Set in the 19th century, Phileas Fogg, a man of meticulous nature and precise words and manners, overhears a conversation at his local club about traveling across the world. In an uncharacteristic move, he bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel the globe in eighty days. At home, his new manservant, Passepartout (how cute is that name) is waiting for Phileas Fogg to arrive so that he can follow precise instructions and finally live a planned, unadventurous life. To his utter confusion, not only does the meticulous Phileas Fogg arrive home earlier than usual but also demands to leave the house immediately for a trip. Phileas Fogg packs all the money in cash while Passepartout packs a bag in haste and they leave immediately to catch a train to exit London. Phileas Fogg does not explain the circumstances to Passepartout, so the manservant is in the dark. That his master is a man of very few words doesn’t help all that much. And thus, begins the journey of circling around the world. The route?
From London to Suez via Mont Cenis and Brindisi, by rail and steamboats …………….. 7 days
From Suez to Bombay, by steamer ……………….. 13 ‘
From Bombay to Calcutta, by rail ………………. 3 ‘
From Calcutta to Hong Kong, by steamer …………. 13 ‘
From Hong Kong to Yokohama (Japan), by steamer ….. 6 ‘
From Yokohama to San Francisco, by steamer ……… 22 ‘
From San Francisco to New York, by rail …………. 7 ‘
From New York to London, by steamer and rail …….. 9 ‘
To add some spice to the mix, that very day a man robs the Bank of England and flees. Inspector Fix suspects Phileas Fogg to have robbed the bank so as to make the trip and follows the two men who have just set to travel around the world. Phileas Fogg diligently keeps a diary of the days he spends in the various countries and does not disembark from his mode of transportation to see the places. However, he insists on having his passport stamped as a proof of arrival in the country. He sends Passepartout out regularly to buy essentials and tours the cities where they arrive/dock. While he does so, the duo find themselves in various adventures either due to delay in the mode of transportation, unforeseen cultural practices/terrain conditions, bumping into strangers who become companions, and even due to Inspector Fix and his obsession with arresting Phileas Fogg no matter what lengths he might have to go through. They travel by train, steamship, sailing boat, sledge, and even by an elephant (no, in India we don’t commute by Elephants anymore). Whether they reach London back in time or not is for you to find out.
The book has made me laugh out loud. Its old-world ways of commute, communication, and commerce are charming. The adventures they encounter are bewildering and funny. The usually reserved Phileas Fogg shows many sides of his personality which Passepartout observes and then comes to admire. I have enjoyed reading the description of the various cities they arrive at. It’s like peeking into the past. Also, I found myself rooting for Phileas Fogg hoping and praying that he did make it.
Jules Verne’s brilliance shines in the writing of the commute and the climax where one calculates if Phileas Fogg has won or lost. That he wrote of taking such an adventure back in the 19th century makes this novel so relatable even today. Nothing in it is out of bounds or unbelievable (unless, a century later you wonder how people traveled by elephants, or maybe not even then).
The book is such an enjoyable read. I would recommend it whether you’ve read it as a child or not.
It has been such a fun ride around the world.