Back in August last year, I took part in The Classics Club’s 24th Spin event, for which my result was to read the famous nautical adventure, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by the beloved French author, Jules Verne. Having previously loved Around the World in Eighty Days and enjoyed Journey to the Centre of the Earth as well, I was very happy with my result. 😁
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea begins in 1866 as several ships have had disastrous encounters with an unidentified ‘monster’ of the deep, that is now threatening international shipping. An expedition is launched on the US Navy’s frigate the Abraham Lincoln to hunt and destroy this menace, and onboard is the renowned French oceanographer Pierre Aronnax, and his unflappable assistant Conseil, to help identify what this monstrous creature could be.
However months of fruitless searching follows and when they finally grapple with their quarry, Aronnax, Conseil, and the Canadian harpooner Ned Land are thrown overboard in the attack. Where they discover that the ‘monster’ is actually a futuristic submarine, the Nautilus, and are taken aboard by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Thus begins a fantastical adventure across 20,000 leagues (nearly 50,000 miles) of the ocean, on a journey of discovery through undersea forests, coral graveyards, pearl beds, miles-deep trenches, and even the sunken ruins of Atlantis.
This novel of undersea exploration has been captivating readers ever since its first publication in 1869-1870 and I can see why. It is the quintessential adventure story, with action, danger, daring-do and fights, and yet it was also way ahead of its time! The Nautilus – powered by electricity, with batteries charged by seawater – is pretty mind-blowing even by today’s standard, so imagine reading about it back in the late 1800s! All of which Verne describes in a way we mere mortals can understand and believe, even my science averse mind coped. 😅
Then there Verne’s stunning descriptions of the flora and fauna below the water, which passes by the panoramic viewing window in the lounge, where our protagonists, Arronax, Conseil and Land spend most of their time when they are not allowed freedom to move around or leave the giant metal leviathan that they now call home or prison, depending how you look at it. My only niggle being when I was tired I could have done without Conseil’s odd habit of categorising every creature encountered into its species, subspecies and scientific description in big long swathes of text. 🙄
So while I didn’t love this as much as Around the World in Eighty Days, I did think Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was a jolly good adventure and a wonderful escape from the worries of 2020! For me, it only needed more charismatic leads, like Fogg and Passepartout, to lift it up on par. I have Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island on my Classics Club list, so I look forward to trying that next. Good read ⭐⭐
Now I’d love to hear from you: Have you read this? Or any of Jules Verne’s other adventures?