This month I was able to squeeze in two classics! It helped that both were nice & quick, action-packed, fast-moving adventures. It also helped that they were both by the excellent Jules Verne. As has been the case a couple of times during my Reading the Classics project, after my February Classic I was ready for something a bit lighter. Luckily, the library’s One Click Digital audiobook service had just the material I was looking for! I was ready for some fun rather than the deep philosophical examination that is so prominent in many of the classics of literature. So it was with a childlike giddiness that I checked out Around the World in 80 Days. I had read this book years ago…so many years ago that I refuse to show my age by saying exactly how many years. Let’s just say that Mr. Verne may very well have been able to sign the copy of the book I own! But the audiobook format being my modus operandi these days, I decided to revisit this classic from my childhood in a new form.
It’s a fairly short but wonderful book in which we follow Phileas Fogg and his trusted valet, Passepartout in their attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. As can be expected, the journey is packed with adventure! Fogg and company, all the while tailed by a wry detective who has mistaken Fogg for a bank robber, are forced to use just about every mode of transport imaginable on their journey. Trains, ships, even elephants and a wind-powered sledge—over the frozen Great Plains—are employed as they try to overcome each obstacle thrown into their path…including being sidetracked in order to rescue a young Indian woman from her fate as a ritual sacrifice! The reserved Fogg’s systematic nonchalant character contrasted by Passepartout’s hot-bloodedness makes for great comedy! The comic, action-packed globetrotting mixed with Verne’s smart, scientific writing creates a very enjoyable read! I think I enjoyed this more as an adult than I did as a kid!
As I said, the book was short and quick and therefore did not quite satisfy my need for adventure. Being in Verne mode already, I went back to the One Click site and checked out 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Again, Verne’s scientific voice, researcher’s style and apparently endless knowledge of marine life blend well to create this classic. Read from a modern point of view, the book may not seem all that special. But remembering that the novel was written in 1870—well before the days of prolific submarine warfare—Verne’s foresight is uncanny. Though it doesn’t have the same fun tone that was so wonderful in Fogg’s journey, the voyage under the sea has much more in the way of suspense. For me, a guy that WILL NOT go into the sea, avoids lakes at all costs and even takes the relative safety of a bathtub with a grain of salt, the underwater tension was thick! When Captain Nemo gets his sub, Nautilus stuck under the polar ice cap—water continually freezing around them, strengthening their underwater prison—I truly feared for my heart health! Did I mention that I have a morbid fear of being trapped under the water? Eek! I’m feeling a bit short of breath just reliving the scene!
Maybe next month I should do my heart a favor and stick with some sort of depressing classic dystopian fiction. Maybe some Orwell or Huxley? – Dan Winsky, Acquisitions