Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days When Frenchman Jean Passepartout starts a new job as valet to a wealthy English gentleman called Phileas Fogg, he is pleased to find that his master is a quiet, solitary man who lives his life to a strict routine. Having previously worked as a singer, a circus acrobat and a fireman, Passepartout is looking forward to leading a settled, domestic life for a change. To his dismay, no sooner has he taken up his new position than Phileas Fogg informs him that they will be leaving at once to go on a journey around the world. He has made a bet with some friends at London’s Reform Club based on a newspaper article which claims that, with the opening of a new railway in India, it is now possible to travel around the entire world in eighty days.

Travelling by train, boat, sledge and even by elephant, Fogg and Passepartout begin a race against time through Europe, Africa, Asia and North America, crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Along the way they rescue an Indian widow, are attacked by Sioux warriors…and find themselves pursued by a detective who believes there is more to Fogg’s eccentric behaviour than meets the eye.

Around the World in Eighty Days is the first book I’ve read by Jules Verne. It has been on my Classics Club list from the beginning, while other titles have been added and deleted, but it has never seemed to be the right time to read it. Last week I wanted to take a break from the very long novel I’m in the middle of reading (Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset) and have a change of pace, so I decided to give this one a try – and it was the perfect choice. This is a short book with short chapters, and the rate at which Fogg and Passepartout move from one adventure to the next makes this a very quick and entertaining read.

Putting the novel in historical context – it was published in 1873 – it really must have seemed that the world was getting smaller and more accessible. It seems such a waste, though, to be determined to travel the world at such a speed! If I had the opportunity – and the money – to make a journey like that, I would want to spend some time exploring each of the countries I passed through on the way, but Phileas Fogg appears to have no curiosity at all:

Mr. Fogg, after bidding good-bye to his whist partners, left the steamer, gave his servant several errands to do, urged it upon him to be at the station promptly at eight, and, with his regular step, which beat to the second, like an astronomical clock, directed his steps to the passport office. As for the wonders of Bombay — its famous city hall, its splendid library, its forts and docks, its bazaars, mosques, synagogues, its Armenian churches, and the noble pagoda on Malabar Hill, with its two polygonal towers — he cared not a straw to see them.

We do still learn a little bit about the geography and history of the various places Fogg and Passepartout visit (and Passepartout, who shares my frustration at Fogg’s lack of interest, does occasionally manage to do some sightseeing on his own, with mixed results) but the main focus of the story is on the journey itself and whether they actually will succeed in going around the world in eighty days. There’s also a romance, which I found difficult to believe in as we rarely even see the characters involved speaking to each other, but I suppose the hints were there! I loved the relationship between Fogg and Passepartout, though; they are such different men yet have so much loyalty to each other.

I enjoyed Around the World in Eighty Days much more than I thought I would when I first decided to put it on my Classics Club list. I’ll have to keep Jules Verne in mind for my second list – which I’ve already started to compile despite still having twenty books to read from the first one!

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33 thoughts on “Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne”

  1. I don’t think I have read any Verne since I was a kid, and then I found him pretty turgid. I think I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This sounds more amusing than I would have expected.

    1. I think I probably appreciated this book more now than I would have done if I’d read it when I was younger. It was definitely more fun to read than I’d thought it would be!

  2. I’m so pleased to hear you enjoyed this 🙂 This was my first Verne novel too and I am looking forward to reading more – I still have Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea on my Classics Club list.

    1. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of the other Jules Verne novels on your list. I’m interested in reading both of them.

  3. What you say about Fogg not wanting to actually explore the regions and cultures he travels through, unlike a modern traveler, reminds me of Swiss Family Robinson. There the family repeatedly marvel at the strange and exotic animals they encounter – and promptly shoot them and eat them!

    1. It’s been a long time since I read Swiss Family Robinson and I didn’t make the connection, but yes, you’re right. Attitudes were so different then!

  4. This is one of those books I had never thought have reading but I am intrigued. And I know that I still have a copy of Journey to the Centre of the Earth that was given as a prize to my father when he was a schoolboy, so maybe I’ll try that.

    1. I wasn’t sure Jules Verne would be an author I would like, but I added this book to my Classics Club list on a whim and am very glad I did!

  5. I’ve liked the few Jules Verne novels that I’ve read; I think my favorite is Journey to the Center of the Earth. But they’re all pretty fun.

  6. Such a beautiful cover! Loved Journey to the Centre of the Earth as a child, although I remember finding Fogg and Passepartout distinctly irritating.

  7. This was a classic of Frennch literature for children – boys, mainly – at the end of the 19th century and until the 1960s. Then it seemed dated. Verne has anticipated lots of scientifical discoveries and he was afavourite with boys. His books were often given as prizes at the end of year rewards at the French lay Republican schools in the Hetzel edition (end of 19th century). They are very valuable today. Verne was thought to stimulate boys’ spirit of adventure while the Comtesse de Ségur was given to girls because she was seemingly showing good manners and good breeding. Now, both authors are subjects for academic dissection but they remain as “classics for children” in the collective memory of educated people.

    1. Thanks for that information. I think it’s interesting that certain books were considered suitable for boys and others for girls. I used to like reading both as a child, although for some reason I never thought about reading Jules Verne until now! Luckily he seems to be the sort of author who can be enjoyed by adults as well as children.

      1. The gap between what was suitable for boys and what was suitable for girls existed in Western literature(s) until the 1970s. In fact, there is still something of it when you do not want to dress a boy in rose pink or when you do not give him a doll!
        My family was more open to mixity (does such a word exist in English?): Mother already read books for boys and Father read la Comtesse de Ségur. Nonetheless, it was more a question of girls reading boys’ books.
        Father’s father was fascinated by Jules Verne. (I think that at this point I have to say I am 23 to give an idea of generations!). Therefore we have thise fat, big, red books with gilded pages that were school prizes AND his collection of Verne’s novels – almost complete. Father added some. I loved them when I was a girl: there is the novel itself and a sense of adventure and suspense; there is also the scientifical background that Verne wants to impart. He tries to give you geographical, botanical, geological, et al., facts. Of course, they are dated but they give you the state of knowledge at the end of the 19th century.
        You should read Captain Grant’s Children, Mysterious Island, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, in this order because each contains at least two volumes but they are interconnected. This is great reading IF you remember it was written for boys/children. Or if you put it in its 19th century French context. Titles are approximative: I am translating from French.

        1. I was thinking about reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea but wasn’t aware that those other two books were connected, so thank you for letting me know. I will try to read them in that order (Captain Grant’s Children seems to be called In Search of the Castaways in the English version). I don’t mind if a book feels dated, of course – I think it’s important to keep things in historical context and not judge by modern standards.

          1. After having looked up, the books I mentioned in French yesterday are (in English): “In Search of the Castaways; or The Children of Captain Grant”. This volume is followed by “The Mysterious Island” (where you will see what happens to at least one villain from “The Castaways”). And finally comes “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” where you discover the life and mystery of the man who helps the stranded travellers in “Mysterious Island”. Of course, each book may be read as a stand alone but it is more fun to read the entire sequence: there is something of lost childhood that comes back with it. 🙂

            1. Thank you. I do like to read books in the right order if possible, so I will start with In Search of the Castaways and then read the other two. 🙂

  8. I read this after reading about two women trying to break the 80-day record in real life. I enjoyed it, except for the gruesome bits with the Sioux Indians and the railroad. I’ve had 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on my shelves ever since, but it hasn’t felt like the right moment for that book yet.

    1. I didn’t like the Sioux bits much either, although I enjoyed the rest of the book. I would like to read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but I think I’ll probably try Journey to the Centre of the Earth first.

  9. Whoa, I was reading your review and thinking the story sounded so familiar. I have read a couple of around the world books in my reading project: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pe’ne du Bois, which won the Newbery Prize in 1948 and Around the World With Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, the #4 bestseller in 1958. Then it hit me. I have seen the movie! It was nominated for 8 Oscars and won 5, including Best Picture in 1957. It was a very silly movie that was a bit too long, but that’s Hollywood for you, especially in the 1950s. You were better off reading the book.

  10. Phileas Fogg is a bit of an ass, isn’t he! One wonders how it is possible to be so UN-interested in everything…
    My favourite Jules Verne as a child was Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon), which I remember reading with a huge world atlas next to me, so that I could trace the heroes’ journey across Africa (there never was a more exciting way to learn about latitudes and longitudes!). It was very thrilling and I highly recommend it.

    1. I’m disappointed that I never read any Jules Verne books as a child! Five Weeks in a Balloon sounds great – I might have to add that one to my list as well.

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