As I’ve been enjoying the recent steampunk literature, I realized that I’d never read many of what are now considered the Originals. I downloaded this audio version from the library website, and happily listened to it while washing dishes.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. Narrated by Frederick Davidson.
For those who are unacquainted with the book, here’s a brief summary: The year is 1872. Phileas Fogg is a reasonably wealthy Englishman, with no known family or real friends. As many Englishmen of the era were wont to do, he spends most of his time at his club, playing whist. His most distinguishing characteristic seems to be his unfailing regularity. He has just fired a manservant for not keeping proper time. His new manservant, Passepartout, who took the job in search of a predictable life, is therefore shocked when Fogg announces that they are going on a trip around the world, as he has bet his club members 20,000 pounds that it is possible to make it around the world in 80 days. Things are pretty quiet for the first weeks, with the only interest being a detective who has followed them from London, convinced that Fogg must be the bank thief currently sought in London. Things pick up once they hit India, however, as Fogg detours to save the life of a beautiful young Indian widow, Aouda, and they must travel by elephant between stretches of railway. Even past India, travel remains challenging. Fogg’s detached attitude towards the whole affair contrasts with Passepartout’s French emotions as the scrapes get closer and closer. Even if Fogg loses his entire fortune – will he despair? And can the beautiful Aouda convince the confirmed bachelor to care about something? Neither outcome is ever seriously in question, but the book is an entertaining romp (while staying very proper, of course.) It’s fully conscious of its own humor and the ridiculousness of trying to live life as a machine, even as it celebrates the modern technology that allows the voyage. Davidson was, I thought, the perfect narrator for this. His accents were spot-on, but turned to eleven, as it were – Phineas Fogg’s English accent extra-crisp, Passepartout extra, um, however it is that you describe French accents. This is an excellent choice for kids and adults wanting to explore a classic.