Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Jules Verne Reading Challenge

Posted on December 31st, 2013

Voyages ExtraordinairesIt’s New Year Resolution time again and this year I’ve set myself a reading goal. Jules Verne’s most famous novels – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, were part of a sequence of 54 known as the Extraordinary Journeys. The goal, according to the publisher, was ‘to outline all the geographical, geological, physical, and astronomical knowledge amassed by modern science and to recount, in an entertaining and picturesque format … the history of the universe.’

I plan to read all 54. Perhaps I’m crazy. Let a 19th century European loose to write about the planet and you can expect inaccuracies, irrelevancies and political incorrectnesses, above and beyond the deliberately fictional elements. There’s probably a good reason not all of Verne’s books are famous.

On the other hand, they’re free to read, which is an important feature right now, and travel fantasy is my favorite genre. So off I go! Below is the list of the 54 books. I won’t be reading them in this order. Instead I’ll be grouping them by theme or skipping from one book straight to its sequel.

The Extraordinary Journeys

Click on the arrow for the full list and links to books I’ve read:

  1. Five Weeks in a Balloon
  2. The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
  3. Journey to the Centre of the Earth ~ 3. Finished 13 January 2014
  4. From the Earth to the Moon
  5. In Search of the Castaways
  6. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  7. Around the Moon
  8. A Floating City
  9. The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa
  10. The Fur Country
  11. Around the World in Eighty Days ~ 6. Finished 9 February 2014
  12. The Mysterious Island
  13. The Survivors of the Chancellor
  14. Michael Strogoff
  15. Off on a Comet
  16. The Child of the Cavern or The Underground City ~ 4. Finished 17 January 2014
  17. Dick Sand: A Captain at Fifteen
  18. The Begum’s Millions
  19. Tribulations of a Chinaman in China ~ 7. Reading next…
  20. The Steam House
  21. Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
  22. Godfrey Morgan
  23. The Green Ray ~ 5. Finished 23 January 2014
  24. Keraban the Inflexible
  25. The Vanished Diamond
  26. The Archipelago on Fire
  27. Mathias Sandorf
  28. The Lottery Ticket
  29. Robur the Conqueror ~ 1. Finished 1 January 2014
  30. North Against South
  31. The Flight to France
  32. Two Years Vacation
  33. The Family Without a Name
  34. The Purchase of the North Pole
  35. Cesar Cascabel
  36. Mistress Branican
  37. Carpathian Castle
  38. Claudius Bombarnac
  39. Foundling Mick
  40. Captain Antifer
  41. Propeller Island
  42. Facing the Flag
  43. Clovis Dardentor
  44. An Antarctic Mystery
  45. The Mighty Orinoco
  46. The Will of an Eccentric
  47. The Castaways of the Flag
  48. The Village in the Treetops
  49. The Sea Serpent
  50. The Kip Brothers
  51. Traveling Scholarships
  52. A Drama in Livonia
  53. Master of the World ~ 2. Finished 6 January 2014
  54. Invasion of the Sea

Other Jules Verne articles on this blog

Jules Verne in Amiens – links to a travelogue at Voyages Extraordinaires.

What I read on Christmas Eve: The Night Circus

Posted on December 27th, 2013
What I read on Christmas Eve: The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published by Vintage in 2012
Pages: 512
Location: International
Mode of travel: Magic, Train
Buy from Amazon USA
Buy from Amazon UK
In 1886, a mysterious traveling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Reves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the reveurs - the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter's daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer's apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love...

Verdict: brilliant for those who like visuals and don’t crave too much excitement.

You’d think a traveling circus story would float my carpet any day of the year, but this one turned out to be a bit like an airport or a railway station. It stayed exactly the same wherever it went. The only places that get fleshed out at all are Victorian London and a farm in Massachusetts, but even they are picturesque stage sets, populated by 21st century personalities. I think the author was mainly in it for this:

Steam locomotive  and this  Vicorian evening gowns

Anyway, that’s not exactly  criticism of the book., so on to the review! The Night Circus is extremely visual, a real feast for the senses. It’s like being in a film, maybe a paper silhouette animation like this:

Princesetprincesses  or this  Lotte Reiniger fairy tales or this.

I enjoy reading books like this, especially on Christmas Eve. I became a bit addicted to this fantastical circus, just like the reveurs, the circus fans in the story, and couldn’t put the book down until it was finished, despite having many important things to do the next morning. After that, how can I not give it four stars?

ink spotink spotink spotink spot

It’s delightful, skillful, tightly structured and aesthetically pleasing and errr… a bit flat. Some readers have a justified interest in intricate plotting, character development, emotional rollercoasters, historical accuracy and other deeper concerns. They won’t find them here. The author rather goes out of her way to distance us from the contents of her characters’ heads. She gives us a story that nominally includes murder, insanity, passion and other causes of turmoil but what really matters is whether the colour and shape of the pool of blood harmonises with its backdrop.