Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ReView of 'Around the World in Eighty Days' by Jules Verne

Classics - 304pgs
Puffin (first published in 1872)

Herein concludes my two Jules Verne novels for the Book that made me Love Reading Challenge: the first was last month's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and this month's is Around the World in 80 Days.

Briefly, I want to say that I was slightly disappointed with re-reading Twenty Leagues Under the Sea.  I felt as if the book was nothing like I had remembered it, whereas Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne is much more representative of my childhood memory.  It's almost just like I remembered it, and more.

When I was younger I remember this book had an impact on me for the mere reason of its premise.  Around the world in eighty days, I mean 'WOW!' I think I was a big dreamer when I was younger. I would have liked to travel everywhere.  After all, my brother had traveled, my father had traveled, my sister had taken excursions with her classmates, so I figured I would some day travel, too. I do remember a vague memory of a ski-resort trip, but I think my dreams were more drawn out to be like the journey in Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days.  London.  Bombay.  Hong Kong.  Yokohama.  San Francisco and New York.

I really believe there are no coincidences in life, just signs that you're on the right path.  Although I didn't know it at the time, I think these two books (especially ARin80D's) by Jules Verne were a sign that I would end up doing one of my undergraduate degrees in Anthropology (the study of human culture).  I believe, even further, it was a minutiae of my life that led me to where I am today.  I am fascinated with learning about foreign places, cultures, and human relations in general.  So it's no wonder I think that I was drawn towards this book from an early age.

At that age, though, how much did I really know of this book, and its impact on me?  I have a very vivid recollection of the journey to different countries that Phileas Fogg embarks on. My father was the influential factor in me knowing this book and reading it.  In fact, he read part of it to me at some point in time.  He used to tell me that one day we would live in America, and I would go to school there.  That's actually what happened, but I remember it so clearly because of the passion attached to this book, from both my father and I.

Now, that I have re-read this book again after more than a decade, I have to say it is just as I remember it.  The tone, the setting, and the ambition of attaining something everyone else believes an impossibility (something my father said about how others thought it was impossible we would ever reach America) are the same elements I remember as a child.  But to me now, this book is so much more, above and beyond what I remember as a child.  I have a more depth-ful perspective of it. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I will be reading this again in my lifetime, definitely.

Some things I really want to mention about the book, that I feel need to be recorded.  I want to say a few things about Philea Fogg's character.  He is introduced in the following manner:

"exactitude personified... He was exact the he was never in hurry, was always ready, and was economical alike of his steps and his motions.  He never took one step too many, and always went to his destination by the shortest cut; he made no superfluous gestures, and was never seen to be moved or agitated. He was the most deliberate person in the world, yet always reached his destination at the exact moment.

He lived alone, and so to speak, outside of every social relation;  and as he knew that in this world account must be taken of friction, and that friction retards, he never rubbed against anybody."

To see his character unfold is one of the most wonderful experiences of this books, aside from his adventures and obstacles he is faced with as he travels.  Much of his character stays true to these two statements, but there is one twist at the end that makes the ending all worth-while.  Which brings me to my second point.  

Another wonderful element to this book, is the splash of romance and love.  Phileas Fogg "would not have attained as much from worldly accomplishments, as he does from finding lasting love with charming Aouda."  It is through his relation with Aouda that we see the real Philea Fogg much more than words can say, and it makes you wonder as to the nature of the spirit and its tendency to reach out for love as much as it is unaccustomed to, even.  When that occurs, if we allow ourselves to the experience, as foreign as it may be to us, and we find the will to embrace it and cherish it, chances are that it will reward us much more than any worldly treasures, adventures, or curiosities.  

I'm so happy I decided to re-read this old childhood favorite.  I want to say that you must read this.  It is an easy, comfortable, pleasant, and entertaining read.

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