Vintage map of the world

Travel tales: Jules Verne’s Around the world in 80 days

For anyone that is fascinated by the steampunk movement, this is the perfect book for you. Journey with Jules Verne’s famous character creations in a proper gentleman’s tale, evoking feelings of good times past by sweeping readers straight into a world of Victoriana. Like Phileas Fogg’s notebook, Around the world in 80 days is a pocket story that travel fans will keep close in their thoughts a long time after reading the last page.

We join Phileas on a day like any other. Leaving his new servant Passepartout at home, Mr Fogg visits the Reform club on Pall Mall, London. Here he engages in a game of whist with some businessmen friends and a wager forms, to prove it possible to travel across the world in 80 days. Phileas Fogg accepts and so the journey begins.

Victorian hot air balloonPhileas Fogg is portrayed as a straight and steadfast man, living his days by the mechanical ticking of his inner clock. His somewhat unusual habits such as particular temperature shaving water, strike as difficult ones to maintain whilst on the move. Indeed after the first chapter or two, I couldn’t tell if I was going to like the book or whether I actually liked Phileas Fogg with his routine oddities. Fortunately like most timeless good books, the story and characters grow on the receiver as they read. In hindsight, I believe Verne’s intention was to demonstrate how unlikely it was for our lead to attempt a voyage like the one he soon found himself on.

Phileas’ sidekick comes in the form of Passepartout, a loveable clutz that you can’t help be amused by and infuriated with at the same time. Many other characters appear and disappear throughout the days, with Aouda and Mr Fix being the only constants throughout. 80 days seem to fly by as the group journey by boat, train, sled, elephant, each leading them on to the next element of their story. My only disappointment throughout the book was the lack of hot air balloon travel that is so often associated with Phileas Fogg.

For me, the language lightened with the twists of the plot although not difficult for the modern reader to understand by any stretch. On reaching the end, I found I had a familiar feeling of sadness and wished there was more to read.
On reflection, Around the world in 80 days has everything that I could want in a book. It is one long, intriguing, Victorian sea creaturecomedic, exciting, whirlwind adventure. The tale is full of geographical facts and historical titbits of the various cultures our travellers encounter on their way. Follow Passepartout on his errands and sneak into a Hindu temple or discover the colour that only elder men in China were permitted to wear. The fact that these are being uncovered in a book written over a century ago make these little nuggets of knowledge even more of a treasure.

And what of the wager? Did Phileas Fogg and Passepartout make it back in time? This ingenious book will keep you guessing to the last. If you would like to know how the story ends, I suggest you take the journey for yourself.

Visit one of the Phileas Fogg themed bars in London, England

Did you know that 2 October is known around the world as Phileas Fogg Wager Day? One of the places to visit is Valencia in Spain where a monument including Phileas Fogg is displayed outside the city hall.

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