Every year, whether I like it or not, and usually I don’t, I force myself to read a handful of classic books. Generally I find that I dislike them, and it is a penance to read them. This, however, could not be further from that penitential experience. It turns out that Around the World in Eighty Days is a cracking good read.
What’s more, it is one of those books that I think a child would adore. Not every child, obviously, but there are going to be younger readers out there who will absolutely love this book. It has memorable characters, engaging story lines, it has adventure and drama on every page, and it is so fast paced it makes modern authors with their speedy style and short chapters, look like old has beens.
If you are unfamiliar with it, it tells the story of the enigmatic Phileas Fogg, long term member of the Reform Club in London, and stickler for routine. He enters into a wager with members of the Club when they believe his estimate, that he can get around the world in Eighty Days, is erroneous. Twenty thousand pounds rides on the bet, and it is all to play for.
Fogg sets off with his intrepid and disastrous French man servant Passepartout, and is trailed by an English detective, Mr. Fix, who believes that Fogg is not as he seems, and has in fact robbed the Bank of England. Fix is determined to get his man.
Between them, Mr. Fix and Passepartout inadvertently put obstacles in Mr. Fogg’s way, and this means that he is always having to get himself and his companions out of scrapes as they travel. Their voyages include wading through the jungles of India on the back of an elephant, fighting Sioux Indians on an out of control steam train, and commandeering a steam ship by locking the captain in his cabin and bribing the crew.
It’s thrilling. It’s funny. It’s clever and it’s so exciting.
The language is fairly formal, but not incomprehensible for an agile reader, and it would make a wonderful bed time story to read aloud. I recommend it for boys and girls aged seven and up.