It’s April and here we are again, we’ve finally come full circle and arrived back at Classic’s Corner! Proud of me? What do you mean “no”? Pffft.
‘One ill-fated evening at the Reform Club, Phileas Fogg rashly bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days – and he is determined not to lose. Breaking the well-established routine of his daily life, the reserved Englishman immediately sets off for Dover, accompanied by his hot-blooded French manservant Passepartout. Travelling by train, steamship, sailing boat, sledge and even elephant, they must overcome storms, kidnappings, natural disasters, Sioux attacks and the dogged Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard – who believes that Fogg has robbed the Bank of England – to win the extraordinary wager. Around the World in Eighty Days gripped audiences on its publication and remains hugely popular, combining exploration, adventure and a thrilling race against time.’
Around the World in 80 Days is one of those books where literally everyone knows the plot and the characters and yet 90% of people haven’t read it. I should have learned from my Frankenstein/Jeckyll and Hyde ordeal but thankfully, this time I was rewarded. While there are many versions of this book available in one format or another (the hugely terrible Steve Coogan/Jackie Chan film anyone?) nothing quite compares to the original text.
Like most pre-nineteenth century novels, I found myself reading with a cut-glass accent and waving my spectacles around while talking to my colleagues. This is not a commentary on the novel and just an observation. There’s just something in the language that makes me want to talk like the Queen. I really like that the tone of the book is lighthearted, anything too serious could have been quite heavily bogged down, especially when it comes to subjects like religious rituals being interrupted and the Sioux Indians attacking the train. Anything too heavy would have caused quite a stir and to be honest probably would not have aged well. I did have to wonder why Phileas Fogg took on this bet. He never once seemed bothered by any of it, acting totally blase about the whole thing. Someone that uninterested would never have bet twenty thousand pounds on the point. While we are on the subject, how could anyone travel the entire world and not be remotely interested in any of it? “Oh look at that elephant dear!” “Hmm, yes, lovely darling. Could you pass the Ace of Spades?” Madness.
I don’t know much about 19th Century policing, but surely Mr Fix could have saved himself a hell of a lot of time and effort and money if he’d confronted Mr Fogg at the Suez Consulate, had a quiet word and if he genuinely thought Fogg was the bank robber, performed some sort of citizens arrest until the warrant showed up? The Consul could have backed him up, surely? I just feel that that particular slice of the action was needlessly long-winded and ultimately didn’t add much to the story as a whole. On the flip side, I love that Passepartout was resolutely stubborn about London time always being the correct time and the Sun being in the wrong that he somehow gained 24 hours. Just brilliant. I just had a mini argument with myself about whether or not that’s doable, because Australia is about 10 hours ahead of the UK, but America is about 8 behind us, so yeah I guess it would work, because physics and stuff. Time zones and maths aren’t my strong suit, but I think it works.
Apart from the entirely unlikable protagonist, it’s a very enjoyable book. A few things made me want to look up various historical facts, not so much because I thought they were inaccurate, more because I was genuinely interested. Apparently people had passports but they were worse than useless and during the days of the British Empire it was a crime to disrespect the native religion, despite the fact that the British created the empire by forcing their religion on other people. However, by far the most usable and lasting piece of information I will retain from this book is that bananas are just as healthy as bread and half the price. In India. There was also a weird section where it just became a text book on Mormon history for a few chapters, don’t know what that was about.