Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Book 51 of 2013: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

I like to alternate between reading book-books and Kindle books, so whenever I finish reading a book-book I like to follow it up with something from my Kindle. At least, that’s the theory. Since I’ve spent the last two years studying literature a lot of my reading time is taken up reading books for my courses which have to take priority over anything that I actually want to read. Way back in September last year though my course hadn’t quite started yet and I so I was still enjoying the tail end of the summer where I had complete freedom over my reading choices.

I was still kind of being influenced by what I’d being studying though, travel writing being one of the things covered in my previous OU course, so when it came to picking something to read from my Kindle I decided I wanted something which would be a kind of bridge between my old course and my new one. Oh, and my next course was going to start within a couple of weeks so I wanted something that wouldn’t take me too long to read. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne filled that gap.

Image of first edition from Wikipedia.
It tells the story of Phileas Fogg, who lives a fairly boring and regular man who winds up making an unexpected bet that he can circumnavigate the world in just 80 days, dragging his new valet, Passepartout along with him for the trip. Meanwhile a Scotland Yard detective, Fix, has been sent out in search of a man wanted for bank robbery, and he decides that Fogg is his man so sets out to delay him. Along with way Fogg and Passepartout manage to rescue a young woman, Aouda, who joins their group as well as overcome barriers set up by Fix as they attempt to get back to London within the time scale to allow them to receive their reward.

I really, really enjoyed this and it’s one that I’m definitely going to read again. A good sign of how much I enjoy a book on my Kindle is whether I think it’s worth buying in hard copy, and I think if I see a nice edition of of Around the World in 80 Days I’ll definitely pick it up.

Considering it was written in 1873 I wasn’t expecting to find it so funny in places, but it really was. Fogg is quite a funny character with his particular ways of doing things (his shaving water must be ready at a particular time and at a particular temperature each day); Passepartout often has moments of pure comedy and Fix’s determination to catch Fogg and prove that he is the criminal he’s after is also really funny in places. I don’t know why I always find it strange when humour is so evident in older books, I guess I always expect them to be more serious. I was kind of expecting it to be a bit dry, but didn’t mind too much if it was because I thought ‘at least it’s short’ so the humour was a pleasant surprise.

As I said above, I was looking for some reading material to tide me over until my course started. I decided I wanted something classic, so did a little bit of searching on my Kindle and one of the reasons I selected this, aside from the links between my old course and the new, was because it was just 150 pages. It made for a lovely little quick read.

It was interesting to see links between this and the travel writing that I looked at on my course last year. I think I probably would’ve enjoyed it just as much without that knowledge, but it made it interesting to read the descriptions of the people, places and the methods of transport that were used. It would’ve been interesting to study if this had been one of the books in A230, I think I definitely could’ve found enough to say to write an essay on it.

I spent the whole time reading it being reminded of a cartoon that I used to watch as a child. I’ve probably not thought of that in years, or at least not since going to see the Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan film version in the cinema! Since reading the book I’ve looked up the cartoon, all I could remember about it was that all the characters were animals and Aouda was cat-shaped. I managed to find it (through the power of Google) and it’s actually called Around the World with Willy Fog and was a Spanish series originally, made around the same time as Dogtanian and the Three Musketeers. I must’ve been about five when I watched that, it’s funny how something can give you a blast from the past that you’ve not thought about in years!

I enjoyed this so much that I’m going to have to look at other books by Jules Verne, I’m fairly certain that I’ve got both Journey to the Centre of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on my Kindle. I also think it’s something that Mr Click might enjoy, so I’ll probably keep my eye out for book-book versions of those too.

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