Sarah R. (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Matthew Goodman's writing is magic! He transforms historic documents into a fast-paced fascinating story that introduces the reader to Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland during the colorful era of the late 1880s. Both are single women taking on the challenges of New York City. Each is a talented writer and well qualified as a professional journalist. Newsrooms, however, are a male domain, and editors are proud of that. How these women overcome this obstacle unveils their creativity, tenacity, and talent. Nellie Bly is Yankee ready to make a difference in the world and Elizabeth Bisland is confident in her Southern style.
Prompted by Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg, Bly sells the "World" newspaper on her imaginative story idea. Since Fogg circled the globe in eighty days; she explains that she can beat his record. At the "Cosmopolitan" magazine, Bisland's editor sees potential for a wager in the race, and he decides to sponsor her participation. But the real competitor in this race is time.
Newspaper and magazine readerships grow handsomely as the race begins and continues. Editors are pleased as Bly circles the globe from the east and Bisland from the west. But the ultimate winner today is the reader, who can follow such exotic travels from an easy chair at home.
The sights and sounds reported by these two amazing women offer excitement and insight as they open the door to the 20th century, and they find their way into the male dominated world of journalism.
Michael P. (San Marcos, CA)
Educational and enjoyable
There's nothing better for me than a book that makes history come alive. This book succeeds. The author has a marvelous ability to take dry facts and turn them into an engrossing story that let me feel like I was in the midst of the world in 1889.
My only criticism is that I wanted to know how the outcome would have changed had Bly waited for the rails to be cleared of snow. Regardless, a great read. Definitely recommended.
Marylou C. (Winfield, IL)
Book Club Material
I knew after reading the first page that this book was a keeper. And I was right. Not only is the story fascinating, but the historical facts contained within make one aware of how fortunate we are to be able to travel as we do today.
Learning about life, issues, events and travel in the late 1800's is sure to stir the interest of the reader. This factual book reads like a well written novel and holds your interest totally, except for some parts when the author gets too in-depth with the miniscule facts that add nothing to the story.
One might think the author was being paid by the word, but since the story is so spellbinding, you don't realize it until you've finished the chapter. This book tells the modern reader what it was like for journalist, especially female ones, to cope with the editors, foreign countries and travel of yesteryear
Encourage your book club to read and share their thoughts on this book. Questions could include, would you have done it then and would you do it today and which woman did you find yourself cheering on.
But I still think it should have been about 50 pages shorter.
Andrea S. (Lafayette, IN)
19th Century Amazing Race
I thoroughly enjoyed this account of the 1889 race around the world between Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland. The book was well written and was as absorbing as any fiction book. As with all history books, it was an eyeopener as to how things seem different now but haven't really changed. Book groups would find much to talk about here: women's roles in the 19th century, changes in travel, role of railroad, the role of Britain in 19th century world history, journalism. But that aside, this was just a very enjoyable read for anyone!
Timothy H. (Carlsbad, Ca)
Eighty Days, an Amazing Race of the Victorian Era
Eighty Days the new nonfiction book by Matthew Goodman gives readers an understanding of what life was like for the career woman as the impact of the industrial revolution began to take hold and shrink the Victorian world. Nelie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, two women of different backgrounds, social class and degrees of backing from their respective editors raced in opposite directions around the globe to prove it could be done in less than the eighty days prescribed by Jules Verne. Much of Goodman's Eighty Days reads like a novel and the accounts are fascinating. Readers can't help but cheer for their favorite much as the readers of their day must have done.
While the depth of research done by Goodman is extensive, such level of detail tends to bog down the narrative. Forty pages of notes and bibliography may attest to the veracity of the text it appeals mostly to the historians that would applaud that level of detail. When Goodman is focused on the narrative the story is more compelling.
Overall, the book is a good read and can afford book clubs threads of discussions on: the treatment of women in professions, particularly journalism, then and now, the beginnings of globalization, and the joys, discoveries and frustrations of travel.
Barbara H. (Richmond, IN)
Eighty Exceptional Days
Wow, did I enjoy this book. The author's research is thorough and his bibliography is lengthy and the information is delightful. The reader not only learns about Nellie Bly and her attempt to exceed the travel time of Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days, but also has the pleasure of visiting the world of the 1890's, meeting Joseph Pulitzer, understanding the plight of Chinese workers in America, traveling in luxury trains and boats, seeing beautiful places before industrial pollution took place, and so much more.
Nellie Bly initiated the idea of traveling around the world in less time than 80 days to give women journalists a boost away from the traditional social columns they wrote. She had to convince the editor of The World a NY newspaper to allow her to embark on such a trip alone, a definite step away from social convention. The editor of the Cosmopolitan heard what the newspaper was doing, so to boost readership he sent Elizabeth Bisland, a free lance writer for the magazine, to challenge Bly's attempt, but traveling the opposite direction. The two women and their outlook on the trips are very different and both have many adventures, but the reader gets to experience both.
Learning in a most readable narrative covering so much space is a pleasure. The book is full of surprises for the modern reader as it covers both custom, details of history, description of places and events of the 1880's. The journeys of both women are exciting. One highlight is that Nellie Bly gets to meet Jules Verne and his wife, but that is only one adventure of many during the historic race. Phileas Fogg was fictional and his adventures were fun, but Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland live in a real world the reader has the pleasure of visiting.
Joan V. (Miller Place, NY)
A Whirlwind Trip
What a fascinating book! One of the best books I've read in a long time. The author has done an amazing amount of research on Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland's trips around the world. However, none of the research comes across as dull or tedious. The reader gets completely caught up in the race (or journey as Ms. Bisland would call it) and you cannot put this book down.
I highly recommend it for those who love to travel, arm chair travelers and for the historical information you learn about the 1890s in America. This book covers one of THE most revolutionary and inventive times in history.
I think Book Clubs would like this book. An interesting question to pose would be, "Which of these ladies would YOU like to travel around the globe with?"