Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

by Matthew Goodman

Hardcover, 2013




Ballantine Books (2013), Edition: First Edition, 480 pages


On November 14, 1889, two young female journalists raced against one another, determined to outdo Jules Verne's fictional hero and circle the globe in less than 80 days. The dramatic race that ensued would span 28,000 miles, captivate the nation, and change both competitors' lives forever.


½ (163 ratings; 3.9)

Media reviews

A richly detailed double narrative of the adventures of two young women journalists in a race against time, each striving to be the first to travel around the world in 75 days, outdoing the fictional Phileas Fogg’s 80 days...The author also examines the shenanigans of the press, the vicissitudes
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of travel and the global power of the British Empire in the Victorian era.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member Fjumonvi
A century and a quarter ago, Nellie Bly--and, perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree, Elizabeth Bisland--were household names, familiar across the United States and in some distant countries as they sped around the globe in opposite directions under the sponsorship of rival publications. Their
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objective was to prove that the trip could be accomplished in reality, as well as in Jules Verne's popular novel "Around the World in Eighty Days," in that length of time--or faster. "Eighty Days" chronicles both women's journeys.

Author Matthew Goodman has done excellent research, including, in addition to biographical information about the racing journalists, descriptions of points of interest they visited and sidelights on their trip. An example of one of these sidelights is the story of John J. Jennings, an editor of the New York World newspaper which also employed Bly. Sent to escort her on the last leg of her journey from San Francisco to New York, he was forced by snow and ice to abandon his railroad car and trek perilously across the mountains on skis to fulfill his assignment. Organizing the extensive and disparate information that went into "Eighty Days" must have been difficult, but Goodman has accomplished this masterfully. The book is at once readable, entertaining, engrossing, and informative.

Unlike other reviewers who knew little about Bly and less about Bisland, I knew exactly who they were (and who reached New York first) because fifty-odd years ago I read a children's book about their journeys. I was delighted to encounter this account of their travels and to renew my acquaintance with these two adventuresome women. I would highly recommend "Eighty Days" to readers who are interested in women's history, late-nineteenth-century travel, or biography.
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LibraryThing member Dorritt
I love books about American history, women, and exploration, so this should have been right up my alley. To some extent, the books delivers what it promises. I now know all about the circumstances that led up to Nellie Bly's legendary quest to break the record Jules Verne established in "80 Days
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Around the World", I have a deeper understanding of the state of U.S. journalism in the 1880s, and I possess more information than I'll ever need to know about 1880s transportation. On the other hand, here's what the book doesn't deliver:

* A description of the world in 1889. Despite apparently ample time spent relaxing on trains and deck chairs, neither Nellie Bly nor Elizabeth Bisland seems to have invested much effort reporting on what they observed as they travelled around the world. What an opportunity wasted! If this is one reason you’re considering reading the book, don’t even bother.

* A deeper admiration for "female womanhood". Though the author claims this was one of the outcomes of the adventure, I can't say I was terribly impressed by either women. Their arrangements were made solely by men, and when last-minute changes had to be made, often it was men who saw to this as well. In short, pretty much all our intrepid "globe-girdlers" had to do was show up at the right stations at the right times. Not exactly a bold statement of female intelligence or resourcefulness.

* A deeper understanding of what made Nellie Bly "tick". The author seems content to take her at her word, but I found this highly unsatisfying as Nellie Bly was above all a storyteller, not above tailoring the details of her story to suit her audience; therefore, we really can't trust what she says about herself or her motives. Would have loved insight into the extent to which her legitimate boldness stemmed from journalistic zeal, a risk-taking nature, a determination to defy stereotype, and/or simple necessity – she was the family’s sole breadwinner, after all.

It would appear that this is one of those instances where the myth really does trump reality, a fact that Matthew Goodman cannot entirely overcome despite his narrative zeal. Indeed, maybe a little LESS narrative zeal might have been more appropriate. Feel like the author spent way too much time speculating what the women were "probably" feeling at each step along the way, which irked me because his speculations appeared to be based on guesswork rather than any actual data and because his “speculations” often felt stale and stereotypical.

Ironically, I now find myself both overwhelmed with detail about the journey itself, but craving to know more about the true sentiments and sensations of the women who undertook it.
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LibraryThing member mysterymax
There is an art to making non-fiction read like a novel. Erik Larsen, author of "The Devil in the White City" and "Isaac's Storm", has it. Matthew Goodman doesn't. "Eighty Days" reads more like a dissertation than 'an exciting story'. Goodman took the story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's
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race around the world (is it a race if one of them doesn't know it's a race until it's half done?) and crams enough information into the book to make it more like "the world as it was in 1889".

The book shifts back and forth between Bly and Bisland, but as their journey progresses Goodman sees fit to fill in the background of the story, giving their trip context, which is good and very interesting, but it overwhelms the story of the two women at times.

You learn quite a lot about women in journalism, the newspapers of New York City and their owners and editors; steamship lines and their owners and ships and schedules and crossing times and about railroads not only in America, but in Europe as well, including the outfitting of railroad cars, the service onboard and the history of the rail companies.

You learn how much coal a steamship uses and how much a train uses. You learn about the Chinese laborers who built the railroads in America, the anti-Chinese feelings in America and the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act. You learn about Pittsburgh and New Orleans. You meet Joseph Pulitzer in America and Jules Verne in France. And, you experience the pervasive influence of the British Empire throughout the world.

The only information I would have like to have had, but which wasn't there, was a map showing the routes of the two women as well as the route of Phileas Fogg in Verne's novel.

As the book progresses you also learn about the character of the two women.

Since the day I acquired one of the McLoughlin Brothers 'Round the World with Nellie Bly' games, Bly has always held a fascination for me. I had never even heard of Elizabeth Bisland yet, when I read "Eighty Days", I found Bisland to be the one I was cheering for. It was Bisland who seemed to most appreciate the variety that the world showed her. It was she who most appreciated the experience the trip had offered her.

Not leaving any details of the story untold, Goodman also tells us about the lives of these two women after the race is over from 1890 to their deaths in 1922 (Bly) and 1929 (Bisland).

The book is informative, well researched, carefully documented and thorough with numerous photographs. It is an excellent treatment of this amazing event in our history that so few people know about. What this book is not however, is a compelling book that reads like an adventure novel. It is not "Around the World in 80 Days in a Skirt".
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LibraryThing member MickyFine
In November 1889, reporter for New York City paper The World, Nellie Bly, began a trip around the world with plans to beat the fictitious time of Phileas Fogg from [Around the World in Eighty Days]. Unbeknownst to Bly, several hours later Cosmopolitan would send their own reporter, Elizabeth
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Bisland, in the opposite direction on her own round the world trip with the goal of beating Bly. In this beautifully written narrative non-fiction account of the trips of both women, Goodman fantastically evokes the time period, the experiences of the two women, and the larger context for their travel. I found myself utterly fascinated by this small bit of history and enthralled by Goodman's beautiful writing. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member dizzyweasel
Eighty Days, the story of two female reporters' race around the world, is an entertaining read - though nonfiction, Goodman writes his narrative like a novel, and the two reporters are developed as characters in this exciting travelogue. In a time where women could only eat alone at the counter at
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ONE New York restaurant, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland travel across the globe, in separate directions, with only a bag and their wits. As they report back to their respective newspapers, the world becomes inflamed with speculations: can either one make it back in less than 80 days (from the title of Jules Verne's novel about a race around the world)? who will return first? can the trip even be accomplished safely?

Eighty Days is full of trivia about the state of the British Empire in 1889, the changing status of women (especially women in the workplace), travel accommodations of the Late Victorian period, and the amazing variety of people and places seen in 'eighty days'. One of Goodman's strengths is that he fills his text with sumptuous detail, adding a 'just like you were there!' experience to the suspense of the race. The reader cares more about the journey than the conclusion.

I enjoyed the personages encountered by the reporters more than the reporters themselves. Goodman takes extended asides from the main narrative of the two women, which probably improves the book considerably. Neither of the two female reporters are thoroughly likeable, so the revolving cast of secondary characters provides relief from their stories.

Goodman's use of a variety of primary source material (all cited at the back) ratchets up the quality of this book as a nonfiction resource on travel or Victorian society, but sometimes his interest in preserving the informative quality creates some very boring asides largely irrelevant to the narrative. On the whole though, this was an entertaining work.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
In late 1889, faced with declining circulation, the World's editor decided to pursue a story that one of their writers had been unsuccessfully pitching to them. Nellie Bly, one of the few female journalists of that era, had made a name for herself with her investigative reporting. Now she proposed
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to travel around the world, using only standard transportation available to the general public, in less than the fictional eighty day journey undertaken by Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg. When Bly set out on her journey across the Atlantic, she didn't know that just a few hours later another woman, Cosmopolitan columnist Elizabeth Bisland, would travel in the opposite direction in a race to beat Bly around the world. Bly had only a few days to plan her trip after receiving her assignment from the World. Bisland had only hours to prepare, having received her assignment the morning of her departure.

Alternate chapters describe Bly and Bisland's experiences as they circuit the world, Bly in a race against the fictional Phileas Fogg and Bisland in a race against Bly's time. (For weeks Nellie Bly was unaware that another woman was attempting to beat her time.) Readers are treated to occasional side trips into background information about trains, steamships, or the history of particular locations without losing the momentum of the race against the calendar.

The women had a lot in common, but their personalities were very different. It may be hard for most readers not to pick a favorite. I would prefer Elizabeth Bisland as a travel companion. Nellie Bly had some rough edges to her personality and shaded the truth when it suited her. I would have grown tired of her company long before the end of the journey.

Both women wrote accounts of their journeys, and Goodman used both books as sources for his own account of their trips. However, he also had access to contemporary newspaper accounts and information from archival materials of which Bly and Bisland had no knowledge. In this case, the whole (Goodman's book) really is greater than the sum of its parts (Bly's and Bisland's accounts). Highly recommended for readers with an interest in the Gilded Age, the history of journalism and women journalists, and all armchair travelers.

This review is based on an electronic advanced readers copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member Penny_L
In 1889 two female journalists, who could not be more opposite, embark on an unofficial race to see if a person can actually travel around the world in 80 days as Jules Verne theorized in his novel. This well researched book follows the women through their journey and features their personal
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experiences along with the social, political and economic climate of the world during this time. Though the book is not that long, there is quite a lot of information to digest and some very interesting little known facts.
Highly recommend for any history lover!
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LibraryThing member jcbrunner
Jules Verne read about the ease of modern steam ship travel that took the strain out of world travel and ran on schedule. "Around the World in Eighty Days" is a great adventure story but even in its day was already history, as anybody rich could simply book a steamer trip from Italy to Ceylon and
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from there to Hong Kong/Yokohama, then to San Francisco and with the train across the US to pass from New York to Liverpool.

In November 1889. the New York World added a bit of a complication in sending a young woman reporter called Nellie Bly across the globe. Competition among the New York media meant that another newspaper sent its own female reporter called Elizabeth Bisland on the journey but in the opposite direction. The story's excitement suffers from the fact that both trips were rather uneventful. The two women were essentially like parcels on steamers whose location is tracked across the globe. The only minor mishaps occur during the transfers.

The book is well written, though I would have preferred if the author had let the women speak more themselves instead of summing up and commenting on them. Let the sources talk - these are reporters after all. While the two ladies traveled across the globe, their mode of transport did not allow them to discover it, most of the time was spent in first class on the most modern steam ships of their day.
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LibraryThing member corglacier7
I'd agree with the reviewer who would have loved a map of Nellie and Elizabeth's travels, but other than that, this was a fun read about a little-known aspect of history and an incredible journey by two strong, adventuresome women. Feminists and historians alike should enjoy this one.
LibraryThing member willoughby
When I discovered I was receiving a copy of this book it was like Christmas came early. And I can honestly say it lived up to all my expectations! As a fan of Nellie Bly since I was 12, I've read all the other books about her (though some of the newer children's books might've escaped me) and I was
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pleased to find this book to be such a wealth of new material. Matthew Goodman casts a storyteller's eye over all the information and relates details in such a way that everything about the famous tale feels fresh and reinvigorated.

Even a Bly fan such as myself had to admit almost no knowledge of Ms. Bisland. Her life makes a wonderful counterpoint to the tales of the brash and adventurous Bly. I had no idea, for example, that she was friends with Lafcadio Hern, nor that her journey could've easily out-paced Ms. Bly's. The meteorlogical knowledge her boss applied in structuring her journey made the race all the more compelling. The fact Ms. Bisland was a relcutant convert to such travels makes her voice quite different from that of Ms. Bly's - and therefore provides a distinctly different lense through which to view the period.

Of these writers, the one that perhaps emerges on top is Matthew Goodman himself. His story-telling skills are on full display here and he shows a good eye for detail. He picks up on the differences that might've jumped out the most to anyone from our era (the Statue of Liberty would still be its original bronze color as Ms. Bly sailed past) and those that would've felt like they could've happened yesterday (the patriotic stirring when an American sees their flag for the first time after weeks away is something any prodigal American could tell you about).

In short: this book is an excellent primer on the world, New York City, journalism, feminism, the emerging concept of media stardom, and The World (Pulitzer's paper) at a unique time in their respective histories. It is also an engrossing, detailed, fast-paced read.
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LibraryThing member MarysGirl
Very much enjoyed this tale of two women journalists who traveled around the world in 1889-90. Goodman gives us a compelling tale delving into the lives of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland before and after their historic race, but using the race as a framing device. Along the way we visit Jules
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Verne and his wife, travel the Suez Canal, observe the English Victorian Empire and suffer the vagaries of ocean travel. There's very little actual tension as the race progresses. Each woman experiences some minor delays, but few adventures (unlike Verne's fictional Phileas Fogg) until the last leg when Bly is stymied by a massive snow storm that shuts down railroads across the Western US and Bisland's Atlantic voyage is disrupted by delaying storms. Who will make it back to New York first? Will either beat the 80 day record? Read the book and find out (and learn so much more!)
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LibraryThing member dougbq
I knew Nellie Boy traveled around the world. I had never heard of Elizabeth Bisland. We read about thier race to be the fastest to travel around the world. They only once cross paths, and that was pretty much coincidental.

The story is fine. The writing bogged down. It got to be a drudge. Details
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are good. There were just so many that it because a real slog to get through the book.

If you want a lot of information about these two and their trips, this would definitely provide that. However, be ready for a long, slow read.
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LibraryThing member DoingDewey
As with most narrative non-fiction, I liked that this book read like an adventure story but with an extra dash of excitement because the events described are real. The author did an admirable job taking advantage of this, spicing up the narrative with seamlessly integrated pictures and quotes. The
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descriptions were almost as good as the pictures for letting you see what the protagonists would have seen. There are certainly enough descriptions of the amazing places the two women visited to satisfy any fan of the travel memoir (although the specifics are, of course, about 100 years out of date!). The only complaint I might have with the writing is this: the digressions to talk about specific people often started before we knew how each person connects to the main narrative. This made the beginning of the digressions a little jarring.

I did, however, enjoy these digressions. I prefer narrative non-fiction to be approximately half about events and half about specific people involved, with a dash of social commentary on the side. This book was just the right mix of those elements. The book was made more interesting by the very different personalities of the two women and the different tourist activities they each made time for. These differences meant that even when the two women stopped in the same ports, their stories were never redundant. I found this a light, enjoyable read and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction and adventure stories, as well as readers who enjoy travel memoirs.
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LibraryThing member amandacb
Eighty Days attempts, in a rather verbose and tangential manner, to tell the tale of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's race to circumnavigate the globe in 75 or fewer days, thus besting Jules Verne's character Pileas Fogg. However, the narrative becomes bogged down unnecessarily with repeated and
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weighty tangents on the history of nearly everything -- newspapers, women's rights, trains, electricity, steamships, you name it. I am sure the author thinks these tangents are buttressing the excitement of the narrative, but honestly, I just wanted to hear about the respective journies of the women. I don't care about the intricacies of Jules Verne's life.
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LibraryThing member mrmapcase
Eighty Days is an engrossing tale of two women’s journey in an attempt to beat the fictional journey of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg. The two women are Nellie Bly, a reporter for the now defunct New York World newspaper, and Elizabeth Bisland, a columnist for The Cosmopolitan magazine; yes the
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same one on newsstands today.

While Goodman takes some necessary side trips, he mainly follows the path of Bly and Bisland in alternating chapters. It’s an intriguing combination of travelogue and social history, showing how women were treated in work and travel, and American view to citizens of foreign countries.

The differences and parallels between Bly & Bisland’s journeys are surprising. Bly heads east and Bisland west, thinking to avoid the winter storms in the western U.S. Both encounter very harsh winter storms, with Bly facing 15-20 foot snowdrifts that force a change of route, and Bisland facing hurricane force winds that slow the ship down significantly.
The journeys were widely publicized in large part thanks to a contest by the World for a trip around the world, in which almost a million entries were sent in. This contest did force the public’s attention away from Bisland.

Who won? Well you’ll have to read the book to find out. But it shouldn’t take Eighty Days.
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LibraryThing member dhelmen
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which read like a novel despite being biography. Goodman brings the excitement and interest of the journey together with details about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's lives in a manner which maintains the reader's interest. I was fascinated with the detail about
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the world of journalism at the time, the modes and methods of travel, and the stories of these two women who rose above the defined roles of women at the time to lead interesting and adventure filled lives.
Definitely will re-read and recommend to friends!
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LibraryThing member corgiiman
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Not only did it describe the escapades of the two women, but it touched on the culture of the times and around the world. It however touches on what could apply to us today. Is faster better, all the things Nellie missed and never replicated the trip again. The
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saddest was the lives afterwards, Bly's was not to live up to enthusiasm she received during the race sca little while after. Still a fascinating book and well worth recommending.
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LibraryThing member arelenriel
This is actually one of the most interesting books that I have read in the last year. Excellent writing and historical detail about the lives of Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland.
LibraryThing member palmaceae

What made the experience of reading this book even better was the fact that when I received it, I didn't anticipate enjoying it. Wasn't my subject matter of choice, cover looked boring, I don't know. But boy, was I wrong. Eighty Days is fascinating read that gives you a
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wonderful glimpse of the late 19th century. It touches on a variety of socio-political issues such as British colonialism and views on women, and it really helps you understand how very different the world was back then - no airplanes, only trains and steamships, no internet or television, just telegrams and newspapers. I enjoyed the writing style immensely. Even though this book isn't much of a thriller, at some points I could not stop turning the pages because I absolutely needed to know what happened next; Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland went through some pretty harrowing experiences (this book reads like fiction sometimes even though it's not!) I'm so glad that the experiences of these two extraordinary women are being showcased once again. I'm making all my friends read this book ASAP!
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LibraryThing member gtown
In 1889, two female journalists in their twenties traveled around the world by themselves in opposite directions with very little time to prepare (though with the backing of two publicity hungry New York newspapers). That alone should make you want to read the book, but it is quite a great read as
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well. The story of the trip and these two very different women is compelling but also as interesting is the portrait of the world at that time. I also appreciated that while it would have been easy to describe the two women in a perfect light struggling against the male dominated world, we see them fully for both their strengths and their flaws.

This review was based on an advanced reader's edition.
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LibraryThing member rhonda1111

I have heard the name Nellie Bly before but did not know anything about her or her famous race around the world. Matthew Goodman did a good job making it feel alive. The back of the book is around 75 pages of acknowledgments,notes and sources of where he got his information from.

A few days
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ago I got a surprise in the mail copy of Matthew Goodman's book Eighty days and a copy of Jules Verne book Around the world in eighty days. Which I have heard of but have not read. I am not sure how come I recieved the books. I enter a lot of contests,get books from Librarything,goodreads and Netgalley. I later got a digital copy of Eight Days so I was reading from book to listening on my kindle to reading the book. Either way the story was interesting. I would love to be able to do that even today. Except I would be more like Elizabeth and take more than one dress. Okay I would take pants.

I think the book showed up both the good and some not so favorable sides of both Nellie and Elizabeth.

Nellie got the idea to beat Phileas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. A year before her trip. The World Newspaper turned her down than. They decided with two days notice to send her.

The Cosmopolitan Magazine owner decided to make a race of it and send his own reporter in a race going the oppisite direction. Elizabeth Bisland did not want to go. Just given hours to leave. Nellie was almost done with racing against the clock when she found out that thier was another reporter she was in a race against. Which is not fair to her.
One thing that Nellie got to do was to meet Jules Verne in his home. The race against his fictional character Fogg made his book sell even more copies and the play about hs book was produced again 11 years after it was closed the last time. I know now that I plan to read Around the World in Eighty Days and other Jules Verne fiction.

I learned a lot about how different people lived back than and how they traveled. So many things I have picked up that I had no clue about. That England fought a war to make China to let in Opium that they wanted to ship in China to make up trade decifit that they want against Tea

02/26/2013 PUB. Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine 480 pages ISBN 9780345527264

Description taken off Netgalley.com

On November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly, the crusading young female reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper, left New York City by steamship on a quest to break the record for the fastest trip around the world. Also departing from New York that day—and heading in the opposite direction by train—was a young journalist from The Cosmopolitan magazine, Elizabeth Bisland. Each woman was determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days. The dramatic race that ensued would span twenty-eight thousand miles, captivate the nation, and change both competitors’ lives forever.

The two women were a study in contrasts. Nellie Bly was a scrappy, hard-driving, ambitious reporter from Pennsylvania coal country who sought out the most sensational news stories, often going undercover to expose social injustice. Genteel and elegant, Elizabeth Bisland had been born into an aristocratic Southern family, preferred novels and poetry to newspapers, and was widely referred to as the most beautiful woman in metropolitan journalism. Both women, though, were talented writers who had carved out successful careers in the hypercompetitive, male-dominated world of big-city newspapers. Eighty Days brings these trailblazing women to life as they race against time and each other, unaided and alone, ever aware that the slightest delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, from its frenzied start to the nail-biting dash at its finish, Eighty Days is history with the heart of a great adventure novel. Here’s the journey that takes us behind the walls of Jules Verne’s Amiens estate, into the back alleys of Hong Kong, onto the grounds of a Ceylon tea plantation, through storm-tossed ocean crossings and mountains blocked by snowdrifts twenty feet deep, and to many more unexpected and exotic locales from London to Yokohama. Along the way, we are treated to fascinating glimpses of everyday life in the late nineteenth century—an era of unprecedented technological advances, newly remade in the image of the steamship, the railroad, and the telegraph. For Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland—two women ahead of their time in every sense of the word—were not only racing around the world. They were also racing through the very heart of the Victorian age.

Matthew Goodman is the author of two other nonfiction books, The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York and Jewish Food: The World at Table. The recipient of two MacDowell fellowships and one Yaddo fellowship, he has taught creative writing at numerous universities and workshops. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and children.
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LibraryThing member melydia
In November of 1889, World journalist Nellie Bly set off for a trip around the world with the intent of beating Jules Verne's fictional record of eighty days. On the same day, The Cosmopolitan journalist Elizabeth Bisland set off in the opposite direction, and the race was on. I find this to be a
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fascinating period in American history to begin with, but even more compelling were the stark differences between Bisland and Bly, one a genteel Southerner and the other a born urbanite. Their reactions to their foreign surroundings covered the ends of the spectrum of popular opinion. I especially appreciated the sheer thoroughness of the narrative: this book also covered Bly's exposure of a local asylum by getting herself committed undercover, Joseph Pulitzer's strange quirks, and the working conditions aboard the steamships of the time, among other things. This is truly nonfiction that reads like fiction, and I simply loved it. Definitely recommended.

A note on this edition: I read an advance reader's copy, which is an uncorrected proof. Most of the time these books are nearly identical to the final publication, but in this case there were a number of placeholder images and the index was completely blank. I'll have to pick up a copy when it's released to see what that map of Ceylon at the beginning of every chapter is really supposed to be.
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LibraryThing member eachurch
Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland were both remarkable women. The barriers they broke as women would have been impressive even if they hadn't undertaken their remarkable journeys. (Imagine being told one morning that you needed to be ready to go around the world that evening or in a few days time.)
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Although the book is well-structured, there were times when the story became overwhelmed with extraneous (and sometimes repetitious) detail. I thought that Goodman was overly critical of Bly (and that perhaps he didn't like her very much). It was an interesting read, but it would have been better had it been shorter.
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LibraryThing member pbirch01
"Eighty Days" is the story of a race around the world by two women in the fall of 1889. The book itself is an excellent review not only of the race itself but describes significant amounts of historical context and geography of different countries. The book forces the reader to use their own mental
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map of the world to chart the two ladies as they travelled in different directions which provides for a good refresher on world geography.

When I think back about the book as a whole, it seemed that maybe half of the book was dedicated to the actual race while another half was about the historical context and geography of the different areas. These were interesting but I felt they definitely weighed the book down. The author also followed the women what seemed like an extensive amount of time, both after the race finished and in the Epilogue. It seemed like the author grew attached to both characters and did not want the show to end and seemed to drag the ending out. One other minor issue I had was that the author seemed to favor Bly. I found the passages describing her to be much livelier and interesting while I found myself a bit adrift when reading about Bisland.

Regardless of the weight, I found this to be a very entertaining historical fiction with even a bit of suspense at the very end. The author does an excellent job of taking an interesting side note in history and expanding on it to make an interesting view into that era. It did make me think about tourism today and how much has really changed, especially the American national pride.
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LibraryThing member Ronrose1
Nellie Bly was a young woman reporter for a major New York paper in 1889. In an era when very few women were hired to work on newspapers, Nellie secured her position by working undercover to reveal abuses in the garment industry and local insane asylum among other industries. She spent over two
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weeks in the asylum with only a verbal arraignment with her editor to try to get her back out when possible. When trying to think of something to top her latest story, she was inspired by the idea to take a trip around the world alone, trying to beat Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg's time of eighty days. Her editor and her publisher both rejected the idea out of hand saying a young woman alone could never complete the journey, much less in eighty days. Nellie persisted and eventually convinced them that she could complete the journey with the paper's backing. When she set off from New York going east, a rival newspaper's editor decided he would increase his circulation by having his own female reporter race Nellie's time by going in the opposite direction. When Elizabeth Bisland got the message from her editor to pack immediately for a trip around the world she flatly refused. She was a young woman from Louisiana who had moved to New York to pursue a career as a reporter. She was comfortable writing for the the woman's pages and the society columns and had no intention of traipsing off around the world alone. Her editor won out. No doubt with the threat of her job on the line, Elizabeth headed west. Two woman heading around the world with a lot to gain and even more to lose.
Sometimes I dislike reading historical books or biographies because in their closing they remind me of the end we all must face. The rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown, the loved and the reviled. We all travel paths that that lead to one end. It is only how we travel those paths that will make any difference. This is a great read not just for the excitement of the race, but also for the insight into two young women and the effect the race would have on the rest of their lives. Book provided for review by Amazon Vine.
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480 p.; 6.36 inches


0345527267 / 9780345527264
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