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Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

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Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Illustrator: Joseph Ciardiello
Series: Extraordinary Voyages #11
Published by The Reader's Digest Association on November 28, 1988 (first published 1873)
Source: Library
Genres: Classic
Pages: 205
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‘To go around the world...in such a short time and with the means of transport currently available, was not only impossible, it was madness’

One ill-fated evening at the Reform Club, Phileas Fogg rashly bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days—and he is determined not to lose. Breaking the well-established routine of his daily life, the reserved Englishman immediately sets off for Dover, accompanied by his hot-blooded French manservant Passepartout. Travelling by train, steamship, sailing boat, sledge and even elephant, they must overcome storms, kidnappings, natural disasters, Sioux attacks and the dogged Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard—who believes that Fogg has robbed the Bank of England—to win the extraordinary wager.

Around the World in 80 Days was pretty much what I expected. Phileas Fogg makes a bet with his friends that he can travel around the world in 80 days and sets off with his newly-hired servant, Passepartout. Fogg is a calm, organized, rich man, and nothing throws him. It’s basically his money that lets him accomplish his aim. Passepartout has most of the adventures. It’s really more about the race against the clock than experiencing the countries they were travelling through. The story was first published in 1872 and it’s attitudes toward native cultures are definitely dated. It was interesting to see the view of the America West at that time, though.

The blurb makes it sound a bit more exciting than it is. Fogg is a bit too reserved, while Passepartout worries about everything that comes up, we know Fogg will make it work. He is too unflappable. In all honesty, Passepartout is my favorite character. He’s the one out in the towns, seeing the sites, interacting with merchants, getting into trouble. He makes a good companion for Fogg, since he is everything Fogg isn’t.

There’s a side plot with a Scotland Yard agent, Fix, who is following Fogg because he’s convinced Fogg’s a bank robber, which adds a bit to the story as he attempts to delay Fogg on several occasions. He’s obsessed with Fogg, but as they journey together, he comes to respect and like him too, I think.

It’s a short, fairly quick read and I’m glad I finally got around to it. I didn’t love it, but it was fine.

About Jules Verne

Jules Gabriel Verne ( 8 February 1828 – 24 March 1905) was a French novelist, poet, and playwright.

Verne was born to bourgeois parents in the seaport of Nantes, where he was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, but quit the profession early in life to write for magazines and the stage. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a widely popular series of scrupulously researched adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Verne is generally considered a major literary author in France and most of Europe, where he has had a wide influence on the literary avant-garde and on surrealism. He has sometimes been called the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title that has also been given to H. G. Wells and Hugo Gernsback.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Published by Borders Classics on January 1, 2006 (first published June 20, 1890)
Source: On shelves
Genres: Classic, Fiction
Pages: 194
Format: Paperback
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Dorian Gray, a handsome and narcissistic young man, lives thoughtlessly for his own pleasure - an attitude encouraged by the company he keeps. One day, after having his portrait painted, Dorian makes a frivolous Faustian wish: that he should always remain as young and beautiful as he is in that painting, while the portrait grows old in his stead.

The wish comes true, and Dorian soon finds that none of his wicked actions have visible consequences. Realizing that he will appear fresh and unspoiled no matter what kind of life he lives, Dorian becomes increasingly corrupt, unchecked by public opinion. Only the portrait grows degenerate and ugly, a powerful symbol of Dorian's internal ruin.

Yeah, so I’m not a fan of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’m sorry, but it was kind of boring and I knew how it was going to end. The idea itself is interesting; Dorian doesn’t age, but his portrait does and it shows all the signs of his downfall instead of him. Of course, it takes almost half the book to get to that part. it’s a much more philosophical book than I though it would be. It touches on the nature of art and on society’s adoration of youth and beauty. Sin is obviously important to the story  and what a person will do if they are free from consequences, but I think even more important is the dangers of truly influential people. Dorian wasn’t the star for me, his “friend” Henry was. It’s Henry who leads him down the hedonistic path. Henry is charming and witty, he theorizes and shocks people. He encourages Dorian, even though he himself seems to lead a pretty unremarkable life.

Dorian starts off as a beautiful young man, who eventually does whatever he wants whenever. Really, though, we don’t see much of what makes him a terrible person. Two events, breaking a young woman’s heart, leading her to commit suicide, and committing murder himself are clearly reprehensible; but we have 18 years where his friends eventually mostly turn against him, where it becomes increasingly obvious that people know he is immoral, but we don’t know really what he does. We can guess and assume, but I expected to read more of his actual actions. Of course, given the time period this was written, that was probably an unrealistic expectation.

About Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.

As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of “gross indecency” with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe, France by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Published by Enhanced Media Publishing on December 28, 2016 (first published 1813)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Romance, Classic
Pages: 354
Format: eBook
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Mrs. Bennet has but one aim in life: to find a good match for each of her five daughters. Mr. Bennet, a mild and indolent man given to witty cynicisms, refuses to take this vulgar project seriously; he ridicules his wife instead of giving her support in her schemes. One of the daughters, Elizabeth, becomes prejudiced against her future suitor, Darcy, because of his arrogance and his uncalled-for interference with his friend Bingley’s courtship of her sister Jane. In interfering with Jane and Bingley, Darcy is influenced by Mrs. Bennet’s undisguised husband-hunt and her impropriety in general; he mistakenly believes that Jane is only seeking an advantageous match and that her feelings are not sincere. In spite of his disapproval of the Bennet family, Darcy cannot keep himself from falling in love with Elizabeth, and he proposes to her. The tone of the proposal (it is evident that his love for Elizabeth is a blow to his pride) and her own prejudice cause Elizabeth to coldly reject him...

How can I really write any comments about Pride and Prejudice that haven’t already been written? This is probably my third time reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The dialogue, and the story relies on its dialogue, is sparkling and fun. Elizabeth and Darcy are a wonderful couple and complement each other well.

This time around I actually chose to read it because my daughter is reading it for her English class and it’s nice to be able to discuss the books she’s reading at dinner or on car rides. I didn’t read A Tale of Two Cities with her, and I only partly remembered Dracula, but I’m glad I joined her in this one.

Amber and I have talked about the story some. It’s interesting, since she’s looking at it from a different perspective. She’s 17 and it’s the first time she’s read it. Neither of those things can be said of me. I think the thing that struck me most is how she sees Elizabeth Bennet as an early version of the typical YA heroine. She’s strong, well-read, says what she thinks. She doesn’t allow society to dictate her choices and behaviors. At the same time though, she’s fun and more than willing to laugh at herself and others. And she still gets the perfect guy in the end. She is delightful, but even her flaws are positives.

Jane, as Amber sees it, is a little too perfect. Pretty, kind, always seeing the nice in everyone. Once again, her flaw is a positive too, always believing the best in everyone.

The other characters don’t really rate much notice from Amber. Wickham’s the bad guy, and Mr. Collins is rather stupid. She does have to write five essays, so I’m sure she actually does have to think more about the other characters, but we haven’t really discussed them much.

They’ve been watching the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. I haven’t seen it, have you? Is it worth watching? All I’ve gotten out of her is that it’s pretty true to the book and Bingley does not look like she thought he should.

Next up for Amber is The Great Gatsby. I haven’t read it; should I?

About Jane Austen

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen’s plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favorable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Austen’s use of biting irony, along with her realism and social commentary have earned her great and historical importance to critics and scholars.

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