For some reason on the list of classic books, I never read was the entirety of Jules Verne. It was a serious oversight on my part, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t interested in them. Then I started homeschooling my kids and I wanted them to have a pretty rounded selection of books they’ve read. That meant finally reading Jules Verne. We started off with a pretty easy book, Around the World in 80 Days. Our Around the World in 80 Days book club was the perfect way to end our last school year, because our local theater company was doing a free production of it in the park. Of course, we had a blast for this book and a movie night.
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Around the World in 80 Days
Around the World in 80 Days all started with a newspaper article. William Perry Fogg traveled around the world and published a series of articles where the author traveled around the world in 120 days.
Jules Verne took that inspiration and ran with it, creating Phileas Fogg who set out on a journey around the world because of a bet. He traveled with his companion around the world by boat, train, and stagecoach. At no point in the book did he ever take a hot air balloon, though that image is quite cemented into our brains by early film adaptations.
In recent years the book has come under some fire for the period portrayal of Indians, and to a lesser extent Native Americans. Modern adaptations in film and play get around this by mostly cutting those scenes, but they are useful for us to read so we can see how our viewpoint has changed. Jules Verne was doing his best to portray their society as he understood it.
For better or for worse, remember he’s never been to most of the places he’s writing about, and he’s trying to educate as well as entertain (that’s even more evident in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).
Around the World in 80 Days book club
Since this book takes place around the world, we decided to have some fun and include a bit of food from the primary cultures he interacts with. Around the World in 80 Days is actually the inspiration behind the Around the World in 12 Dishes I participated in for several years.
Real quick, on the subscriber page, I’ve uploaded a CORRECTED Around the World in 80 Days snacks labels. I noticed as I was editing this post, I spelled Indian food as Idian food. You can’t see me rolling my eyes at that mistake.
- American Food- being in Texas, we chose barbecue for American food, I suppose we could have chosen otherwise…
- Chinese food- I picked up some dumplings from our grocery store (though the only picture I have says Japanese food and does not look like the dumplings), you could also pick up some sesame dumplings or donuts
- Japanese food- I picked up a dessert for this
- Indian food- I found some Indian bread (our city has a large Indian ex-pat community)
Now to some of our more traditional types of snacks
- cigars- Pirouette wafers, they talked pretty regularly about needing cigars, it’s the 1800s
- boats- I used the same boats from Stuart Little
- exotic animals- circus animal crackers (because I love these incredibly bad for you snack)
- warrant- a rather significant plot point is Phileas Fogg being mistaken for a jewel thief as he races around the world, so of course, we had to have an arrest warrant, we made our with graham crackers, marshmallow fluff, and melted chocolate chips piped out
When we watched the movie, I couldn’t find any version other than the Jackie Chan Around the World in 80 Days. I’d really hoped to find a copy of the old
1960s 1950s Around the World in 80 Days under the theory it MIGHT be closer to the book. This was one of those “in name only” types of movies. Huh, there’s a Pierce Brosnan Around the World in 80 Days mini-series. That would be a blast to watch I bet, and probably truer to the book than the version we watched.
What to discuss in the Around the World in 80 Days book club
I didn’t find many great discussion questions, but I did like many of the Around the World in 80 Days discussion questions here (though I do not remember Verne portraying the Indians or Native Americans as grunting and making animal sound like is claimed here, I’ll have to go back and reread to see if I’m wrong on that, I remembered him writing it as someone who thought their culture was very different and alien from his).
We had a lot of fun discussing the book and the problems that came with travel at this time (communication, broken railroads, etc). We also talked about mistaken identity and the problems it causes (quite a lot), the folly of bets and staking all you have on them, and the general portrayal of the different cultures (India, in particular, is difficult to modern eyes, it talks about traditions Britain first encountered when they first went there).