Fiction – Classic – Adventure
Age range: Grade 6 and up
Mr. Fogg makes a bet that he can circle the globe in eighty days, taking him and his new French servant, Jean Passepartout, on the adventure of a life time.
My first introduction to Jules Verne stands out quite vividly in my memory, but not in a good way. When I was a preschooler I saw part of the movie, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, from the 1950s. I had nightmares of being attacked by a giant squid for years. So needless to say, it has taken me a while to warm up to the idea of reading his books (I’ve actually had this book for a couple of years, but only recently got the nerve to read it). But with a little courage, I managed to do the hard part and start it.
Always when I begin to read an older book I am rather concerned how it will translate to my modern understanding (Charles Dickens was a complete disaster, and I never could tell whether I was coming or going with him, and don’t even get me started on Shakespeare). Fortunately for me I bought a copy full of footnotes to help me put things into their historical context: the Penguin Classic series tend to be my favorite. In addition I was very comfortable with writing style from the start, for the most part all of the antiquated language and references were easily explained. I especially found it an interesting window into a different time period and thought process. This is by no means a politically correct book and I don’t believe we should try to impose our modern opinions on it. If you can’t handle this policy and understand the mindset and era of the author, then I really recommend not putting yourself through the ordeal of reading it.
Jean Passepartout, was the real human connect in the story, while Mr. Fogg, had a rather off-putting personality. The only humanizing characteristic of this incredibly methodical man was his tendency to be generous. Mr. Fix could never seem to get the right end of the stick and by the end I felt rather badly for him. And Auoda, a companion they pick up along the way, was a very special woman who cared more for character than money. Like with most adventure stories the goal wasn’t to really show the inner life of the characters, so much as the action. So the characters were only fleshed out so far.
This is a historically significant book: a notable change in the way people viewed the world. Could you just imagine what it was like when it first came out? It must have just entranced the imagination of its readers, and fueled dreams for new possibilities. It would be like us being told we could travel to the moon easily for the first time. I recommend reading it not only because it is important classic (trust me some “classics” aren’t all they are cracked up to be), but, also, because it is a fun, quick adventure story that is completely non-taxing.