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Jules Vernes famous book Around the World in 80 Days is truly a timeless classic. Detailing the exploits of Phileas Fogg, an eccentric Englishmen whose punctuality is famed and his impassiveness legendary, and his new valet, French former Acrobat Passepartout, who only wants a quiet life to forget his turbulent past. With Foggs fabled routine-driven life that you could set you clock by, peace and quiet for Passepartout seems assured. Until, that is, his new Master returns home to announce that, as a result of a wager at the Reform club, of which Fogg is a patron, he finds out that he has twenty minutes to get things ready for a trip across the globe
in just 80 days.
Adding to the general chaos of the proceedings (though Fogg himself is never chaotic or even slightly perturbed by any delays, much in contrast to the excitable Frenchman), a robbery at the Bank of England along with a description of the robber very similar to Foggs description leads Detective Fix to conclude that he is the robber, and that the whole journey around the world and the wager that prompted it is a clever rouse to allow the robber to escape the country without being suspected. The fact that Fogg has vast sums of money at his disposal (of which nobody knows the origin) seems to add weight to his suspicions. But, the arrest warrant not arriving in time, Fix is obliged to follow Phileas Fogg around the world
Of Phileas Fogg:
He was one of the most prominent members of the London Reform Cub, though he never did anything to attract attention; an enigmatic character about who little was known except that he was a polished man of the world. People said that he resembled Byron at least that his head was Byronic; but he was a bearded, tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old.
As for Jean, also known as Passepartout, he was a true Parisian of Paris. For the five years he had lived in England, taking service as a valet, he had in vain searched for a master after his own heart. His brown hair was somewhat tumbled; for while the ancient sculptors are said to have known eighteen methods of arranging Minervas tresses, Passepartout was familiar with but one of fixing his own: three strokes of a large-tooth comb was enough to complete his morning rituals. Passepartout has been a sort of wanderer in his early years, and now yearned for peace.
Of Detective Fix:
[a] small, thin man, with a nervous, intelligent face and bright eyes peering out from under eyebrows which he was incessantly twitching.
There are several other interesting characters in the book, including a damsel in distress who is saved by Fogg and Passepartout, but I wont go into any detail about them or it might spoil the book for you.
Vernes writing, always intriguing and often witty, really comes alive in this book. He exhibits a knowledge of the world and its various peoples, customs, and transport systems that is truly amazing (and would be impressive even today with the information so freely available on the internet) and a writing style that flows much more readily than in some of his more scientifically-minded books. The various jibes made at the expense of different nationalities (and some of the observations that arent intended to be funny) would probably be considered extremely politically incorrect by some people today, if taken as part of the cultural atmosphere of the time (the book was first published in 1873) are extremely funny / interesting. (The funniest were the observations about Americans, especially in chapters 28 and 29 In which Passepartout does not succeed in making anyone listen to reason and In which certain incidents are narrated which are only to be met with on American Railroads. It may be taken for granted that, rash as the Americans usually are, when they are prudent there is good reason for it. I afraid! Very well; I will show these people that a Frenchman can be as American as they!) The story moves along at a jolly pace and never threatens to become too slow, while the characters are developed well (despite occasional changes of heart that arent really explained very well). As with any book there are things that could be criticised about it, but all in all this is a wonderful read and doesnt really seem to have suffered at all with the passage of more than a century, notwithstanding the obvious technological advances that have been made in transportation in the meantime.
A wonderful book, a true classic, and a book that several films /. TV series have been made of, none of which are even remotely true to the book!! (If ever one did appear that stuck faithfully to the novel, it would be a tremendous film.) Thoroughly recommended.
As with other Penguin Popular Classics, the production quality and binding is workmanlike but quite acceptable, and there is a 2-page introduction with biographical notes.
Phileas Fogg, that fine purveyor of corn snacks was a star well before you may think. Yes indeed, before he entered into the world of the 'superior' bar snack, he was apparently a character from a famous novel by Jules Verne, about a man who travels around the world in eighty days in order to win a bet with some gentleman at the London reform club. Or was that Willy Fogg? I seem to be getting confused. I think you are too. I'll clarify. This op is not about crisps. This op is not about eighties cartoon adaptations of this most famous of novels. (Although I will no doubt be tempted to refer to said cartoon series throughout the op) This op IS about Jules, Verne, his novel "Around the World in Eighty days" and IS worthy of a thousand reads and a crown (do subliminal messages work in text form? We will soon find out…….). What? Oh yes, the book. It's another of these jobbies where the whole plot is given away in the title. They do it. Really. They go around the world in eighty days. Right round. And without a plane! Just boats and trains and elephants and things. (Oh and they do a bit of walking.) Clever isn't it? Let's not beat around the bush, this is a very simple read and will never put you on the edge of your seat. We're not talking adventure thriller here. Does anything else happen other than the travelling shinanigans, or is it just a Victorian Bill Bryson novel? Well, there are two main sub plots, namely the courtship and eventual marriage of Mr Fogg with a young lady he rescues from the depths of India and also the 'gentlemanly' chase around the globe of one Inspector Fix, who suspects Mr Fogg of a huge Bank robbery in London. These are pleasant diversions and help break up the inevitably tiresome parts of the journey. After all, it takes twenty two days to cross the Pacific Ocean in a Victorian steamer, so we need a bit of light entertainment in
between. Characters wise, you may be surprised to learn that our main character in the story, Mr Fogg is actually one of the least involved in the story. Verne instead chooses to view the majority of his text through the eyes of Inspector Fix, or from the perspective of Passerpartout, Mr Fogg's ever present and ever loyal French servant. The most we ever learn about Phileas is that he keeps impeccable time and is a dab hand at whist. He doesn't even take an interest in the various places he is visiting for the majority of his journey, staying below deck apparently focussed upon the matter in hand (i.e legging it round the globe as quick as you can). The absence of Mr Fogg means that the places visited are described by Passerpartout, and thus they are given an air of wonderment, as the French servant is completely amazed by almost everything he sees. As Verne had himself done a lot of travelling (he was a very keen yachtsman) you get the feeling that the book is similar to Mr Bryson's work after all, in that the characters are almost there to justify a quite pleasant, yet ultimately lightweight travelog. It seems Verne new that Michael Palin would be back to fill in the details 150 years later, so wasn't too worried about too much description. The style is very much for that of the young reader however, so I shall not be too harsh. The chapters are short (at times only three or four pages long) and there are many of them, almost as if it were designed for parents to read to their children in nightly chapters. For me, having come from reading some incredibly heavy fiction recently it was a breath of fresh air, and I zipped through it in a matter of hours. With the recent passing of the Queen mother and all the pageantry that went along with it, it also became quite topical. There is a very 'English' feel to the novel (a miracle considering it was written by a Frenchman) and there is constant references t
o the empire, the 'British' approach to life and gentlemanly conduct which has not been seen for over a hundred years. If you ignore the fact that the British empire caused a whole load of suffering to three quarters of the globe and put your blinkers on for a bit, the whole thing is quite pleasant. A refreshing read. A nice one to sit on the beach with for those of you with a bit of adventure in your blood. ********************************************* A footnote. I mentioned earlier the cartoon series 'Around the world with Willy Fogg' which was shown on TV during the late eighties, and featured animals in the place of Mr Verne's characters. This is for all of you that saw this cartoon series and loved it. (I'd like to meet someone who didn't). I challenge you to read this book without imaging Mr Fogg as a lion!! Try it. It's impossible!!!!