While visiting my grandmother’s home, my older sister (also my photographer) proposed we learn to play whist. She discovered this English card game by reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. I loved whist because it was intriguing, compelling, and risky—just like the adventures of Mr. Phileas Fogg, the fictional character who plays the game in the book.
Around the World in 80 Days tells of the adventures of not only Mr. Fogg but also an Indian woman named Aouda, as well as Fogg’s valet, Jean “Passepartout.” Mr. Fogg is a member of the Reform Club, and during a game of whist, Mr. Fogg tells his fellow players that he will travel around the world in 80 days. As Mr. Fogg and his companions travel, they save a woman in India, are attacked by the Sioux tribe on a train, and buy a boat in the United States . . . but will they arrive within the allotted time?
Mr. Fogg is described as “precision personified” (p. 13). Cold and calm, Mr. Fogg gives the impression of everlasting mathematical serenity. Since he doesn’t speak much, my choice word for him is laconic. But Fogg is human, and he does prove heroic more than once (although spoiling the effect by commenting that he’s only heroic when there’s time).
Something that struck me in this book was the methods of transportation they used. Passepartout even reveals that they could have traveled around the world in 78 days! That seemed like little time, but then I thought about airplanes and cars. While reading, I caught myself thinking, “Why doesn’t Mr. Fogg board a plane?” But of course, airplanes and cars didn’t exist in Fogg’s time, so he travels by train and boat. I wondered if Mr. Fogg, in our world, could have gone around the world in 80 hours, so I did some digging and found out that he could have done it in 67 hours!
Around the World in 80 Days is a fabulous book. It’s more engaging than whist and even wittier than Jules Verne’s article about the year 2889. After reading this book, you’ll undoubtedly become wistful for its eccentric personages and startling adventures.
You can buy this book here.
Verne, Jules. Around the World in Eighty Days. Translated by William Butcher, Oxford University Press, 2008.