Continuing through my massive backlog of cheap classics via nook, I ended up spending some time with Jules Verne again rather quickly. And I loved it. But even now, weeks later (my reviews are very behind), I still can’t place exactly why. Let’s try to figure that one out together.
If you think back to my review of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, you will recall that a chief complaint was the overall repetitive nature of the text. Well, Verne (or his translator) doesn’t seem to have quite so much trouble with that here. You will also recall that my chief praises were of the book’s adventurous spirit and sudden gravitas. Well, those are both present here as well, and in spades. Around the World does seem to take much more of a “and then there was this cause why the hell not” sort of approach to the story, but it works. I mean, there’s not much going on in terms of plot, but it is certainly more cohesive and present than in 20,000 Leagues. And what Around the World lacks in Nemo, it makes up (partly, at least) in Phileas Fogg.
Loathe as I am to continually compare this book to my last with Verne, I have no choice. Honestly, I loved them both, but this one just shoots out of the gate with so much more breathlessness. The characters, while all equally inexplicably and impossibly noble, are differentiated significantly more than “this one’s Canadian and impatient, these ones love fish, and this ubermensch has a mysterious past.” Don’t doubt that they are all caricatures, but it’s a book about a bet to circumnavigate the world. And that’s exactly what it feels like.
After the exhaustive cataloguing of Conseil, I fully expected his counterpart here, the circus-gymnast-cum-suddenly-devoted-manservant Passepartout, to be some sort of amateur geographer, listing off altitudes and precipitation and waxing eloquent on the virtues of European imperialism. And that last part does have a place in the story, but humorous and speedy observation takes the place of global oceanic surveys and the very few big events that happen deftly blend that same rush and humor with an honest desire to give the audience a couple of delicious red herrings and make the characters as genuinely good as possible.
I really didn’t mind in the least just how much of this story Jules Verne pulled out of his butt as I burned through it over some toast and orange juice. Don’t take any of the characters so seriously as Captain Nemo (who continues his badass reign) and don’t worry too much about the few incidences of spontaneous Europeanization. Nothing this breezy can offend too deeply and it’s too much fun, and far too short, to get up in arms about it.
A shorter (and likely less eloquent review) yes, but it’ll suffice for what it is I’m reviewing. Give it a shot. I’m no Phileas Fogg, but I’ll bet it’ll sit with you just fine.