Eccentric Englishman Phileas Fogg lives his life according to a precise, mathematically-arranged routine. He has no family, no close friends, and no particular source of employment; instead, he spends the majority of his days reading newspapers and playing whist at the Reform Club. However, his life changes radically when he bets some acquaintances at the club that he can travel around the world in 80 days. After wagering £20,000 that he will complete the journey in time, Mr. Fogg sets off with his French servant Passepartout for a tour around the world – but they encounter a variety of obstacles which may prevent them from completing their journey.
This is a book that really needs to be accepted for what it is – a slightly ridiculous adventure story about a race against time. Phileas Fogg is one of the central characters in the novel, yet he remains largely mysterious to the reader; all we know about him is that he is eccentric and always remains calm in the face of adversity. Passepartout is a little more fleshed out, though, and in fact he could really be considered the book’s true protagonist. There are, of course, several descriptions of various “natives” that make us 21st-century readers flinch, but I think Verne is also a little subversive in his depiction of the 19th-century English jingoistic spirit. In sum, while the character development is minimal, this is an enthralling adventure yarn that I found to be quite a fun read!
N.B. There is absolutely no travel by hot air balloon in this novel. For some reason, I believed there would be – I think popular culture somehow got the notion into my head. So if you are expecting lots of balloon-related hijinks, you will be disappointed. But the book is still definitely worth a read!