Biography & Autobiography. History. Nonfiction. HTML:NATIONAL BESTSELLER 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. Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more. “What a story! What an extraordinary historical adventure!”—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire “A fun, fast, page-turning action-adventure . . . the exhilarating journey of two pioneering women, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, as they race around the globe.”—Karen Abbott, author of American Rose “[A] marvelous tale of adventure . . . The story of these two pioneering women unfolds amid the excitement, setbacks, crises, missed opportunities and a global trek unlike any other in its time. . . . Why would you want to miss out on the incredible journey that takes you to the finish line page after nail-biting page?”—Chicago Sun-Times (Best Books of the Year) “In a stunning feat of narrative nonfiction, Matthew Goodman brings the nineteenth century to life, tracing the history of two intrepid journalists as they tackled two male-dominated fields—world travel and journalism—in an...
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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.
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.
* 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 youâ€™re considering reading the book, donâ€™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 â€“ she was the familyâ€™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 â€śspeculationsâ€ť 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.
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".
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.
Highly recommend for any history lover!
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.
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.
The story is fine. The writing bogged down. It got to be a drudge. Details
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.
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.
The book provides an interesting, entertaining, and enlightening view of the world in 1889-90, particularly as it relates to the role of women. Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland are
In addition to documenting the experiences of the journey as seen by the two reporters, the author provides information about the lives of the two women both before and after the historic journey. I found the whole book very interesting and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in women, history, and travel.
Definitely will re-read and recommend to friends!
This review was based on an advanced reader's edition.
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.
All in all it was interesting but just not quite interesting enough.
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
I liked this book so much that I recommended it as an upcoming read for my library's nonfiction book group --- so we'll be reading it in June!