Eighty Days

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Eighty Days Book

Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman

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

Author: Matthew Goodman

Genre: Nonfiction

Readers: Consultant Alila, publishing professional Gigi, stay-at-home mom Megan V. and homemaker-slash-writer Nan.

Summary: 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.

Alila  Bio

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland both pushed the envelope for what woman were permitted to do in the strictly male world of journalism in the late 1880s. They were famous in their day, for their reporting as well as for their race around the world, but are almost forgotten now. Matthew Goodman has tried to remedy that by writing an exhaustive description of both the race and the time period in which they lived. He also briefly outlines the events of the rest of their lives. Unfortunately the story often gets lost beneath the wealth of detail Goodman includes. At times I lost track of Nellie and Elizabeth and felt like I was reading a history tome about life in the last decades of the Victorian era.

I recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a comprehensive analysis of each woman’s trip around the world- or a look at urban life during this period.

Grade: B+

Read Also:  For a more compelling story about New York in the late 1880s, I would recommend a historical novel (with appearances by lots of characters drawn from real life) by Caleb Carr, particularly The Alienist.


Gigi  Bio

This was great! It is a really engaging nonfiction book following two very interesting women. That alone would be enough for me to recommend it but the author goes further and uses the structure of the race and the movement around the globe to give you all sorts of interesting information: the importance of trains to how we keep time, the impact the telegraph had on the world, bits of British information, etc. You get a fascinating look at what it was like to be a woman at the end of the nineteenth century and a journalist. I particularly liked the descriptions of New York and San Francisco in 1889. At each stop along the way, Matthew Goodman gives you both Nellie and Elizabeth’s opinions and impressions of where they are and the things they see. It was amusing to see how much they differed.

The writing is fast-paced and not pedantic, in keeping with the story of a race. Because the women are moving in opposite directions, it’s difficult to get a feeling for who is going to win but I ended up really caring about the outcome–I was good and didn’t look it up on the internet before I finished. I definitely recommend this (although I really do hate the cover). It would also be a great gift.

Grade: A


Megan V.  Bio

In Eighty Days, Matthew Goodman aquatints his readers with the story of Elizabeth Bisland and Nellie Bly’s race to circumnavigate the world. Goodman does an excellent job of painting a picture of what life was like in America during the late 1800s, not only in terms of the struggles and roadblocks women faced in their pursuit of equality with men in the workplace, but of the state of the country post Civil War, and the enormous advances in technology that occurred at that time. The reader is given a wealth of detail about each woman and her surroundings, which enables the reader to feel part of the story, instead of reading like a history book.

I enjoyed learning about Bly and Bisland, and a piece of history I had never heard before. I was caught up in their race and the different approach each woman took to not only venturing on their trip, but in their journalist work.

While Goodman’s Eighty Days is an enjoyable read, it is one that requires time and attention.

Grade: A-


Nan  Bio

When I read the description for Matthew Goodman’s new book, I was interested immediately; until that point, I’d never heard of Nellie Bly, Elizabeth Bisland, or their epic race around the world.  Two women, both journalists, left New York in November of 1889 headed in opposite directions.  Their plan was to travel around the globe in seventy-five days, beating the time frame Jules Verne imagined in his popular novel Around the World in Eighty Days.  With a premise like that, Eighty Days was bound to be exciting!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about each woman’s adventures, and I developed a greater appreciation for modern transportation (especially since I read a lot of this book while traveling cross-country by plane).  I found both Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland to be likable, even though they were very different; I had a difficult time deciding whom I wanted to win, even though it seemed to me that Matthew Goodman had a clear favorite.
Something that detracted from this adventurous story was an over-abundance of detail.  While I understand Goodman’s desire to provide as much information as possible, the depth of detail became really tedious for me.  It took almost a hundred pages for the story to begin in earnest; the pages prior to that are filled with biographical information about the women and their families, the history of New York and New York journalism, biographical information about each woman’s editor, and so on.  Once the women embark on their journeys, lengthy passages are dedicated to describing the history of their modes of travel and the places they visit.  Some historical information is definitely necessary, but I felt like the amount of detail in Eighty Days bogged down the book and dampened my enthusiasm for reading it.
All in all, Eighty Days is an enjoyable and exciting read, despite its slow start.
Grade: B


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