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

Racing Reporters

Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman.  In 1889, two women set off to race around the world in an attempt to beat fictional character, Phileas Fogg’s, record of 80 days.  The race was a grand marketing stunt to boost newspaper sales.  Joseph Pulitzer, owner of The World decides to send star reporter, Nellie Bly, around the world.  Hours later, The Cosmopolitan magazine grabs its chance for equal publicity by sending their own female journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, the other direction in an attempt to beat Nellie. Nellie didn’t even know about the other woman until she was halfway around the globe.
Both women are given very little notice to begin this bold adventure in the Victorian age, a time of great restraints—more than just corsets.  I’m referring to social restraints; a time when women didn’t go anywhere unescorted, much less travel to foreign countries alone. 
Sounds like fiction, and would surely make a great movie, but this story is true. ­Written as a historical narrative this book reads more like a novel, maybe even a sequel to Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. The women experience nail-biting delays, unbelievably rough seas; they get carried in sedans on the shoulders of coolies in exotic locations where the locals stare in amazement at the “clothing” the ladies wear on their hands.  And to top it off, along the way, Nellie acquires a not-so-friendly pet monkey.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I had read about these women before in another book called Around the World in 72 Days by Jason Marks, a much shorter though still informative book about their journeys. Both books are good. If you want a more thorough understanding of both the women’s lives before, during, and after the race, you may want to read Eighty Days.  If you’re satisfied with a briefer overview, check out Around the World in 72 Days.    

My book club elected to read this book and the ones who read it really liked it.  In fact, it turned out to be one of our more lengthy discussions because there was so much to go over.  Good book....great story, even more so because it's true.  It left us all wondering....hey, why haven't they made a movie of this yet?  

This book met a several of my 2015 Book Challenges: Read a book with a number in the title; buy a book from your local bookstore; read a book set in a foreign country; read a book set in the 1800s; and read a historical fiction/narrative.

Happy Reading,



  1. Now this book sounds perfect for me. I love to read about strong women from the past. Sounds great. Thank you.


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