I have to admit that I had never gotten more than 20 pages into a Jules Verne. But, things were very different this time. My sister had never really read a “classic” before so she decided to try Around the World in Eighty Days, and boy, did it surprise her. She loved it. It was actually her favorite book that she read last year, which is why she bought it for me. Now it was my turn to delve into this whirlwind of adventure.
Reading Around the World in Eighty Days reminded me of a scene in Little Women where they had a picnic and played that game where one person starts a story and the next makes the next scene, and so on until you have the most ridiculous story that could ever be told. When reading that scene I wondered how anyone could combine all the styles and genres of storytelling that arose in their game and make a pleasing result. But, I think that Jules Verne did it. He did it in “Around the World in Eighty Days”. It’s most of all an adventure, but sometimes a comedy, sometimes sentimental, sometimes a mystery, sometimes even almost fantastical, but always returning to be as real as the world can be, and at times it’s even a sort of encyclopedia, and all the while so spectacularly woven into a cohesive story.
I’ve been reading it on my kindle, but as I mentioned, I do have a hard copy. Once, when I was reading the part where they are riding across India on an elephant, I came upon a strange word: howdah. I looked it up, and I could only figure it was one of those large canopies that would carry a prince. But I kept wondering how it was that Sir Francis Cromarty and Phileas Fogg had their howdah, but Passepartout was left to be without the howdah. I recalled that in the hard copy there had been several illustrations, and I thought that maybe, just maybe there would be an illustration of the elephant. To my surprise, as I leafed through the pages, voila! There it was, a perfect illustration of what my mind could not imagine. I saw Fogg and Sir Francis seated across from each other, facing out to the world, sitting in some sort of saddles. Meanwhile, Passepartout, not quite able to attach himself to either side without a saddle to sit on, was left to cling to the saddle blanket, sometimes flying across the luggage all the way to almost smacking the Parsee guide in the back. So, as it contributed to my enjoyment greatly, I was quite thankful to have this illustration.
It was on this search for the definition of a howdah, that I found something I had missed before. On the title page was a note from my sister:
“I hope you enjoy this next adventure just as much as I did. I guarantee you will laugh at Passepartout, try hard to match Fogg’s intelligence, and most of all, facepalm because of Detective Fix. Have a fun adventure!”
I quite agree with her so far. With the addition of Detective Fix, Around the World in Eighty Days feels a lot like an Agatha Christie, which as you know, I love.
So, by all means, I echo my sister’s words to you, read Around the World in Eighty Days and have a fun adventure!
More from Around the World in Eighty Days coming soon…