Sharon P. (Jacksonville, FL)
Eighty Days Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisbane's History-Making Race Around the World - Matthew Goodman
What a terrific read! I expect very few of today's readers had any knowledge of an around - the - world race between two young women working for competing newspapers in late 1800's New York City.
Each competitor is followed with alternating chapters, detailing her incredible journey and the marvels she encountered.
This is a great story of an exciting time in our history. It's a Book Club natural! Who won? Really?..... Read the book!!
Carole A. (Denver, CO)
The few days I read this book were delightful! From beginning to end this book was interesting and enthralling. I have already recommended it to both of my book clubs for inclusion next year as well as to many friends. The research that went into the book and the weaving of the research into the story was, in my opinion, brilliant. The vivid descriptions of travel, people and the character of people was interesting well thought out. If nothing else women readers should appreciate how far women have come! This book is going into my list of favorites. Bravo to Matthew Goodman.
Laurette A. (Rome, New York)
Reads like fiction only it's not! Part history lesson, part travelog, part adventure story and totally engrossing. Eighty Days is immensely informative and a pleasure to read. While I had heard of Nellie Bly I had never heard of Elisabeth Bisland and I did not know the grand story of their race around the world. Matthew Goodman manages to make this rather lengthy book about them and that race interesting and a great read. I particularly enjoyed learning about the different cultures of the countries they visited. This would make a good choice for a book club discussion.
Kathleen D. (Hooksett, NH)
Matthew Goodman's very readable "Eighty Days" is an excellent source for anyone interested in women in America's history, particularly young women of today. These are the brave shoulders that helped pave the way for today's women. Especially in respect to Nellie Bly. In addition to Nellie winning "the race", I find her career tremendously inspiring. She was absolutely fearless. Looking further into her investigation of Blackwell's Island, one can certainly judge her mettle. In 1889 Blackwell's was an asylum for insane women--one where any husband, particularly a wealthy one, could conveniently commit his wife. Nellie was determined to get herself committed and expose the horrific abuse occurring there. She took this assignment without any guarantee that her employer Joseph Pulitizer, of the WORLD newspaper, could secure her release! Nellie wrote extensively about the nightmarish plight of the women imprisoned on Blackwell's Island and the exposure resulted in changes. However, those women haunted Nellie all of her life. When one considers Nellie's bravery in this instance, her trip around the world revealed the certainty that she could face any challenge!
William Y. (Lynchburg, VA)
Matthew Goodman, Eighty Days: a review
In 1873, the French Writer Jules Verne penned Around the World in Eighty Days. One of his most popular novels, it did well in the United States and imposed, in many people's minds, a physical time limit on world travel. Thus the title for Matthew Goodman's engrossing new history about that colorful period.
New York City serves as the opening setting of a contest that would quickly capture the imagination of millions everywhere. Home to numerous newspapers, New York editors and publishers vied endlessly to attract more readers with lurid headlines, scandalous stories, and a variety of features. The New York World had the good fortune to have the spirited Nellie Bly as one of its reporters, a rarity in a male-dominated profession. Anxious to make her name, Bly proposed to the World a daring plan: a solo trip around the world in under 80 days, heading east from New York and returning there from the west in, she hoped, 75 days, thereby eclipsing Verne's fictional record.
Many scoffed, but the World knew a good publicity stunt, and at last Bly embarked on her journey in the fall of 1889. Word of her plans had made the rounds, and The Cosmopolitan, a woman's magazine, decided, the same day of Bly's departure, to sponsor one of its writers in a similar venture, but west-to-east. After considerable urging by her editors, Elizabeth Bisland, who until then had quietly written literary pieces for The Cosmopolitan, reluctantly packed her bags and took a west-bound train that evening, just hours behind Bly.
The remainder of Eighty Days chronicles the adventures of the two women, usually in alternating chapters. Goodman writes in a consistently engaging style, not unlike his contemporaries David McCullough and Paul Theroux. He brings in all manner of fascinating details about the cultures and environments the two intrepid travelers experience, but never in a dry or academic way, making it a page-turner from beginning to end. He also pursues a thread throughout his narrative that describes changing American attitudes toward women, especially in the character of Nellie Bly. In the course of the book, a portrait of the All-American Girl—as popularized in the late 19th century—emerges, a plucky, attractive, independent spirit, ready to take on new challenges, but always careful to retain a strong aura of femininity.
Today, Bly and Bisland are mainly forgotten, footnotes in American popular history. But in late 1889 and on into 1890, they were true celebrities. I won't drop in a spoiler here and say who won the race, but millions waited anxiously to read their latest telegraph dispatches from around the world.
A great choice for book clubs that enjoy non-fiction, or for those individual readers that just like a good book, I cannot recommend Eighty Days highly enough.
Terri O. (Chapel Hill, NC)
Nonfiction that reads like fiction
Eighty Days is a hugely entertaining account of a now-forgotten race around the world in 1889 between Nellie Bly and Elisabeth Bisland, two young female journalists in New York. Goodman recounts Bly's and Bisland's journeys in alternating chapters, and he does a good job building and maintaining suspense around who ultimately won the race. The book is meticulously researched and offers a fascinating glimpse not only into the lives and personalities of these two women but also into everyday life in the late Victorian era. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys travelogues or is interested in the late nineteenth century, as well as those who like adventure novels. This is nonfiction that really does read like fiction!
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.