I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks on my commute, and recently I enjoyed this production of Jules Verne’s classic.
In 1872, before the invention of the airplane and with limited communication methods, getting around the globe could take a very long time. Reclusive man of leisure Phileas Fogg performs possibly the only spontaneous act in his entire life and makes a bet with the members of his club that he can travel… well, around the world in 80 days. As Fogg and his servant Passepartout set out on their trip they are soon tailed by a police inspector named Fix, who becomes convinced that Fogg is a bank robber trying to escape the law.
This book was fantastic and I can easily see why it’s a classic. I either forgot or never knew that it was equal parts adventure and comedy, and a lot of it is easily relatable nearly 150 years later. For example, a running joke with Passepartout is that he frets about the light he left on before they began the journey—how many of us have had the same experience? In keeping with the time there is an air of European superiority throughout, but Verne somewhat balances this by adeptly and pointedly attributing flaws and faults to even the Europeans. Verne is clearly enamored with the locations and methods of travel in his work, and his excitement shines through and maintains the momentum even when he verges on oversharing minutiae. I was also surprised at how little I actually knew about this story I’ve heard so much about, as there are numerous twists that I honestly never saw coming.
The performance by Jim Dale was fantastic. He summons up the laconic drone of Fogg one moment and the excitable French accent of Passepartout the next without missing a beat. Several of his American voices sound a bit similar to Yosemite Sam, but I really liked that as I felt it gave often minor characters a little more depth. The narration is enhanced with the use of music and sound effects at certain points that aid in putting the listener in the mood and setting of the many and varied locales. It’s an extremely high-quality treatment of a great novel and was a pleasure to listen to.
Fun fact: Despite the cover, there is no hot air balloon in this book! The popularity of the 1956 movie made it so associated with the story that it’s the default image found on the covers of many editions now. I wonder how many people have picked up the book and read all the way to the end wondering when the balloon trip happened? 🙂