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Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

around the world in 80 days Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Im the type of reader who prizes style, theme, and characterisation over plota page break is all thats needed for me to be convinced that theres some action going on. But theres something to be said for those rollicking adventure stories of old: those where a hapless individual chases after a questionable end goal whose purpose is minimal at best. The type of narrative Im talking about is that were each chapter might well begin with And then And with an oeuvre thats all about hair-raising, pulse-speeding adventures, the famous French fabulist Jules Verne fits perfectly into this breathless, zany genre.

Around the World in Eighty Days is one of Vernes most celebrated works, and has no doubt played more than a slight role in the sudden ubiquity of goggles, pocketwatches, cravats, and adventuredom beloved by the steampunk crew. Its plot is slight, its internal logic akin to my own, and its characterisation flimsier than a house built from crepe paper, but goodness, its a lot of fun. And when listened to in audiobook format in the gloomy early hours of the morning (yay for my 50 minute hike to the office at 7am daily), its all the better. Particularly when that morning walk involves trekking through Fawkner Park, where hot air balloons regularly land after their morning flights.

Phileas Fogg is the kind of man who would put an atomic clock to shame. Much like a production editor, he has every moment of his life regimented into strict segments. In fact, perhaps the only spontaneous thing hes ever undertaken in his life is his sudden decision to attempt an around-the-world journey in 80 daysno more, and no less. But while the completion of the journey will net him a hefty sum indeed, its the strict time requirements of the journey that most interest Fogg. And, so, having mapped out in his mind the exact chronological requirements of the journey, he and his hapless assistant Passepartout set out on their omnicontinental journey. But while Foggs dogged punctuality sees things starting off on the right track, theres necessarily a spanner or two thrown in the watch-works. First, Passepartouts bumbling shenanigans, which see the pair get themselves into all manner of time-chewing mischief, and the fact that Fogg is being stalked by a Terminator-esque police officer who is adamant that Fogg is in fact a bank robber on the run. Having found myself stuck for several days in international airports, missing all manner of connecting flights, one can only imagine how easily things could be derailed in a time where correspondence via snail mail (pony mail?) was the order of the day.

Yes, its all rather ludicrous, and each chapter essential entails Fogg and Passepartout setting out on a leg of the journey, Passepartout screwing things up, and Fogg saving the day (and time) in the end. Its kind of the narrative equivalent of There was an old lady who Swallowed a Fly. But really, theres a great deal to like here. For my part, Im rather impressed by Vernes efforts to put together a worldwide itinerary in pre-Google days. Theres also the cold pragmatism of Fogg, who feels like a clockwork man himselfperhaps hes a precursor to the Vulcan race? But Fogg, despite being intransigent in his goals, is surprisingly beneficent, being willing to help out just about anyone along the way so long as his his time constraints arent stymied.

But while the characters are so thin as to be see-through, there is some character growth. Fogg, who throws money at just about every obstacle that comes his way, does so in a way that indicates that money is no object: rather it is ones intentions, beliefs, and passions that are paramount. But while extreme punctuality may not seem like an exceedingly admirable goal, rest assured that Foggs chilly heart does begin to warm in the name of lurve. Passepartout, too, while a shambling delinquent for the most part (I picture him rather as one of the Frenchmen in Monty Python and the Holy Grailyour father smells of elderberries!), is in fact a big-hearted chap who does what he can to see the goals of those he cares about realised. The contrast of rationalism and passionindeed, the two men are both archetypes for their respective countriesis often hilarious, and Vernes clever mix of poignancy and tongue-in-cheek mockery makes for a rather fun read indeed (and the fact that Vernes characters can make it around the world in 79 days when the Melbourne Metro system takes similarly as long to get from one station to another makes for some relevant modern-day commentary).

Rating: star Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Vernestar Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Vernestar Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Vernehalfstar Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verneblankstar Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (very good)

See our other Jules Verne reviews

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Other books by Jules Verne:

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from the earth to the moon verne Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne


white 15 Review: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules VerneSend to Kindle


  1. Interesting review, I must read this book again. I remember really liking it as a child. I think Vernes books were more about technology and social commentary (Fogg is throwing money to impress his friends at the club) .

    Excellent and thoughtful review.

  2. Stephanie /

    Theres definitely a commentary about the stiff upper lip Englishman going on, but to me the challenge was less one about impressing his friends and more one about proving to himself that his regimented way of life was a valid one. Of course, the fact that he could be so often waylaid and yet continue on as though nothing had happened goes a long way towards saying that some spontaneity doesnt necessarily go astray!

  3. Ludicrous, but so entertaining! I loved Jules Verne I read most of his novels as comic books when I was a kid. And for reasons I dont recall now, Mysterious Island was my favourite. I downloaded a digital version of that recently, and hope to read it soon.
    Great review it took me back!

  4. Stephanie /

    My pleasure :) Ive got a few more Verne audiobooks ready to go, so hopefully Ill be reviewing some more soon. Im working through my childhood loves again, so Im feeling very nostalgic right now!

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