Countries/Territories Visited: United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Japan and the United States
The first of Michael Palin’s travel books sees the Monty Python man travel in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg, the main character of Jules Verne’s classic Around the World in 80 Days. Intended to accompany the BBC television series of the same name, the book stands apart in its own right and doesn’t necessarily need to be read in conjunction with the television program.
The trip undertaken by Palin was intended to follow as closely as possible the journey undertaken by Fogg, meaning the journey began and ended at London’s Reform Club and does not include any air travel, a luxury unavailable to Fogg at the time in which the original book was set.
The book reads like a diary with each chapter dedicated to a day within the 80-day journey. Despite the vast technological advancements in transportation in the time since Verne’s book, Palin still encounters a number of obstacles along the way which keeps the journey interesting adding suspense for the reader.
Although written in 1989 the book never feels dated when read contemporarily. The book is essentially a snapshot in time providing the reader with a fascinating insight into what the world was like at the time. Palin’s visit and description of the United Arab Emirates and China for example are especially interesting due to how much both countries have changed since the time of the book’s publishing.
Due to the nature of Palin’s itinerary and the rigid timeline which had to be followed in order complete the journey in the predetermined 80 days, some stops on his journey are unfortunately rather short. Singapore is passed over quite quickly for example with very little time for exploration. It would have been interesting to have read Palin’s view of the city state –another location which would change drastically in the following years.
Overall, Around the World in 80 Days is an excellent travelogue. Palin’s blending of humour and facts made this book a joy to read marking the beginning of long-lasting series of successful travelogues.