Review of 'Around the World in 80 Days'

Around the World in 80 Days by Michael Palin

around_the_wolrd_in_80_days.jpg In 1988 former Monty Python member Michael Palin repeated the journey undertaken by Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's classic novel “Around the World in 80 Days” by travelling from the Reform Club in London around the world without resorting to travel by plane. Even in 1988 this was not a simple matter. His adventures were made into a television series of the same name Around the World in 80 Days, however, this book gives the reader insights into his trip complete with a number behind-the-scenes pictures to bring the narrative to life.

“Around the World in 80 Days” (the book) is a bit of a dry affair with much of Palin's journey simply biding the time on slow moving boats, mostly container ships but in this respect it does manage to capture the sheer boredom that this method of travel actually consisted of. Where the book comes to life is, of course, with the people Palin meets along the way particularly when he travelled by dhow “Al Sharma” from Dubai to Bombay where the tiny boat really allowed him to engage with the crew (indeed he has long indicated this was the favourite part of his journey). What also comes through is toll the trip actually took on Palin as he suffered from sea sickness, “Delhi belly” and the continual pressure on making his next connection in order to complete the trip on time.

A reoccurring theme of the book is disappointment in the loss of the romance of travel in modern day life. He returns again and again to the idea that travel now is more about the simple process of getting from A and B rather than enjoying the bit in between. Indeed, when he tries to enjoy the journey itself it takes quite an effort to do so. Now we are used to the idea of travel to anywhere in the world in hours rather than days there is no time to take in the sights and, particularly, enjoy the journey. In “Around the World” Palin really does give it a go. Palin's journey was pretty much as difficult as 100 years previously with often no regular methods of travelling where Palin needed to go, having to resort to hitching a lift with a container ship or relying on a decidedly unreliable passenger service to get where he needed to be. This gets back to the idea that so many people now rely on planes for travelling that the other forms of transport have been sorely neglected and often now no longer even operate. For those that have seen the series (for those that have not, do not continue reading this paragraph) the book also captures Palin's obvious disappointment of completing the journey only to be unable to get into the Reform club as the book suddenly just…stops with a note of disgust.

Without having seen the television series the book, I think, would likely bore most readers however for those that have seen the series it does offer more of a flavour of the journey. Though often quite dry, tedious, and melancholy it, in this sense, really captures the feeling of his experience.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-08-15

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: BBC Books

Publication Date: 1989

ISBN: 0563208260

Other reviewed books by Michael Palin: