Thursday, 27 March 2014

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne- Review by Carlyn


I found this book for a dollar in a charity shop so I decided to give it a whirl. I had watched the movie adaption featuring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan and wanted to read the original book. Around the World in Eighty Days is a fictional story about Phileas Fogg who makes a bet that he can go around the world in eighty days.  The book was published in 1874 so this was a time when there no planes and cars so he travels by steam boat, trains and other vehicles of that time period. I think the book gives an interesting insight to the technology available in the day and the attitude of some of the people living in that time. I found it amusing, how some characters remarked on the speed of the trains and boats which we would now consider a snail’s pace.


Phileas Fogg travels the world with his trusty servant Passepartout and Mrs Aouda, a woman he rescues along the way. He becomes famous and people take bets on whether he will succeed. He is also perused by a detective for a crime he didn’t commit. Mr Fogg and company travel to many different countries along the way such as  India, Japan, China, America and Egypt. He has bet his entire fortune so it is essential he wins. Others try to persuade Fogg that is not possible to travel in eighty days because there could be unexpected delays. For example, a train could derail or a boat could come late but Mr Fogg insists that he can travel in eighty days.

Along the way, Phileas does not take one moment to marvel at the things he sees. His companions gaze in wonder at the beautiful landscapes while he plays cards or consults his travel guide. In the book, he is noted for his lack of curiosity and his dignified manner. Fogg never loses his cool during his travels ; it’s all the other characters who have sleepless nights worrying over delays. I think he doesn’t have much of a personality so thankfully the secondary characters make up for it.

I enjoyed reading the journey around the world and thought the pace was good. I thought Jules Verne did a good job in keeping the fast pace which illustrated the urgency of the race. I kept on imagining the changes of the countries that the characters visited from the 18th century to today. I also admired how Fogg found other means of transport when he missed the usual connection of trains and boats.

I have since read that people have been inspired by the book and actually made the trip around the world using the same means as in the book. One notable person was Nellie Bly (1864- 1922), a journalist who made it around the world in seventy two days and even met Jules Verne.
Nellie Bly and might I add, what a looker! I mean most photos from the olden days have dour looking people. Source

As a teacher, I think Around the World in eighty days would be an excellent thematic unit. My students would learn geography,history, culture, science, English and mathematics.

Lesson ideas

1. Research the countries in the book.
2. Plot the journey onto a map and create a modern route.
3. Learn how various transports work
4. Compare the currency rates
And many more.

I’ve since watched the 1956 and 2004 movies of Around the World in eighty days. I recommend them to the people who read the book and the others that haven’t. I think both capture the spirit of the book. The 1956 movie is a bit more faithful to the novel and I feel that David Niven did a great job portraying the dignified Mr Fog while Steve Coogan of the 2004 movie made him a bit more human. My favourite is the 2004 one because I find it funnier and Jackie Chan is in the movie. I think he was wonderful as Passepartout. There are other movies but those are what I have watched so far. I like to watch every adaption and compare them.

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