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

by Matthew Goodman
Ballantine • $28.00 • ISBN 9780345527264
Published February 26, 2013


I must admit that I had never heard of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's race around the globe before picking up Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days—which amazes me because it's the kind of fascinating true-story adventure that novelists wish they could dream up: Two young female journalists departing New York within hours of each other on November 14, 1889, traveling in opposite directions, each alone and attempting to make her way around the world (28,000 miles!) in less than eighty days, a timeframe established in Jules Verne's 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. How could this have been left out of my history textbooks, and why hadn't I ever played with a Nellie Bly doll—complete with her infamous checked overcoat and wool ghillie cap—instead of Barbie? Thank you, Mr. Goodman, for introducing me to these amazing trailblazers.

Trains, ferries, steamboats; Ceylon, London, Hong Kong, the Sierra Nevada; monsoons, 20-feet-deep snowdrifts, the humid tropics of the South China Sea—Eighty Days brims with details that plant readers right in the thick of the action, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining page-turner. I can't wait to see who wins, but I'm certainly going to enjoy the ride in the meantime.

Be sure to check out our review of the book, and here's an excerpt describing Nellie's departure from New York aboard the Augusta Victoria:

November 14, 1889
New York Harbor

There was a blast from a horn. At 9:40 a.m., with a sudden shiver of movement, the Augusta Victoria pulled away from the Hoboken pier. Nellie Bly stood at the port rail with the other passengers and waved her cap to those she was leaving behind; she could not help but wonder if she would ever see them again. Seventy-five days, which had seemed so short in the planning, now seemed an age. Smoke poured from the ship's three funnels in thick black columns, then turned an irresolute gray and dissipated into the sky. The timbers of the deck thrummed softly beneath her feet. Behind her, just beyond the greenery of the Battery, the Tribune’s brick clock tower, seeming part schoolhouse, part church steeple, rose over the city's newspaper district; before the day was out, Bly knew, her name would be repeated a thousand times there, in every newsroom and beanery and oyster saloon, wherever the men of the press congregated.

What are you reading this week? Will you be adding Eighty Days to your reading list?

comments powered by Disqus