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Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World (2013)

by Matthew Goodman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6728134,252 (3.92)56
Biography & Autobiography. History. Nonfiction. HTML:NATIONAL BESTSELLER
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.
 
The two women were a study in contrasts. Nellie Bly was a scrappy, hard-driving, ambitious reporter from Pennsylvania coal country who sought out the most sensational news stories, often going undercover to expose social injustice. Genteel and elegant, Elizabeth Bisland had been born into an aristocratic Southern family, preferred novels and poetry to newspapers, and was widely referred to as the most beautiful woman in metropolitan journalism. Both women, though, were talented writers who had carved out successful careers in the hypercompetitive, male-dominated world of big-city newspapers. Eighty Days brings these trailblazing women to life as they race against time and each other, unaided and alone, ever aware that the slightest delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
 
A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, from its frenzied start to the nail-biting dash at its finish, Eighty Days is history with the heart of a great adventure novel. Here’s the journey that takes us behind the walls of Jules Verne’s Amiens estate, into the back alleys of Hong Kong, onto the grounds of a Ceylon tea plantation, through storm-tossed ocean crossings and mountains blocked by snowdrifts twenty feet deep, and to many more unexpected and exotic locales from London to Yokohama. Along the way, we are treated to fascinating glimpses of everyday life in the late nineteenth century—an era of unprecedented technological advances, newly remade in the image of the steamship, the railroad, and the telegraph. For Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland—two women ahead of their time in every sense of the word—were not only racing around the world. They were also racing through the very heart of the Victorian age.
Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
“What a story! What an extraordinary historical adventure!”—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
 
“A fun, fast, page-turning action-adventure . . . the exhilarating journey of two pioneering women, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, as they race around the globe.”—Karen Abbott, author of American Rose
 
“[A] marvelous tale of adventure . . . The story of these two pioneering women unfolds amid the excitement, setbacks, crises, missed opportunities and a global trek unlike any other in its time. . . . Why would you want to miss out on the incredible journey that takes you to the finish line page after nail-biting page?”Chicago Sun-Times (Best Books of the Year)
 
“In a stunning feat of narrative nonfiction, Matthew Goodman brings the nineteenth century to life, tracing the history of two intrepid journalists as they tackled two male-dominated fields—world travel and journalism—in an...
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» See also 56 mentions

English (81)  Dutch (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Enjoyed the book- while not a biography of Nellie Bly or Elizabeth Bisland- It was an interesting snapshot-love to see an illustarted edition-had to keep going to the internet for pics of the places they went to ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
Matthew Goodman creatively and comprehensively delivers accounts of both of the Around The World Journeys
of Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland.

Although Nelly Bly beat Jules Verne's [Around the World in Eighty Days], she does it Eastward with special help via trains and ships,
while Elizabeth Bisland ran into a liar who stopped her Westward progress.

The author relates the backstory of Nelly Bly as she rose as a top reporter to be an admired and resourceful defender of human rights.

Unfortunately she leaves all that behind, ignoring the desperate situations of many people that she easily could have helped.
Instead selfishly, she focuses on her own race to win.

Though a Southerner whose family had suffered after The Civil War, Elizabeth Bisland shows more compassion for all races
and against the insufferable British Colonialism which targeted so much of The East. Bly admired The English for all they accomplished!

There were unexpected tales of horror - torture, execution, and animal cruelty - notably in Canton, which definitely threw a vote for help from England and America.
Then came the horror of The British forcing Opium on the Chinese, ending with the Opium War in 1842.

Readers will wish for happier endings: Nelly Bly brought most of it on herself, while Elizabeth stands as the heroine of the quest. ( )
  m.belljackson | Feb 26, 2024 |
I read this on the heels of Nellie Bly's Ten Days in a Mad-House. After finishing that one, I knew the name sounded familiar so I dug through my TBR shelf and, sure enough, I did have this! Yay!

I learned a LOT reading this book, but my main take-away was a reminder that there are many facets to Feminism. I saw a children's book the other day promoting Bly as a Feminist. I'm not totally sure she fits what our culture would call Feminist, but in many ways, she represents the kind of Feminist I would have been in those days. I doubt modern ones who would label her this way have read her take on Susan B. Anthony: "When she met Susan B. Anthony, president of the (National Woman Suffrage) convention, she did not hesitate to tell her that, 'if women wanted to succeed they had to go out as women. They had to make themselves as pretty and attractive as possible.'"

Speaking of controversial topics, I was a little shocked at the behaviour of the boatmen in Egypt who rowed up to the ship to help take passengers to land. They coerced/forced the English passengers into their boats, sometimes violently, and then held them captive in the water for payment. Westerners of those days are now looked down on for their prejudices toward people from other parts of the world, but if stories like these, as well as those about being swarmed by beggars when stepping off the boat, circulated back to home, it's no wonder they took this view. This is definitely barbaric behaviour.

On the other hand, I learned a lot about the British empire, what they did to acquire their empire, and the general arrogance of imperialism. I was not impressed.

There were not nearly as many details about Bisland's trip as Bly's. Perhaps it's because Bisland didn't keep as detailed a diary. Much of the portions of the book devoted to Bisland were padded with related info about someone or something else.

People were shocked that Bly could get by with so little luggage---yet she did have the advantage over Bisland of having some time to think things through. I think it's crazy rotten that Bisland literally had a couple hours between learning she was going to being put on a train. My surprise was with the fact that Bly, this popular reporter known for fighting injustice, didn't report on any of the inhumane issues she saw. Perhaps she was only an advocate when there was a clear safety net nearby.

I spent almost the entire book rooting for Bly, only to be so disgusted by her arrogance and dishonesty at the end that I switched my loyalty to Bisland. I lost quite a bit of respect for Bly---especially when she made up stories that Bisland had attempted to sabotage her. To make matters worse, Bisland's boss later blamed her losing on her inexperience and ineptitude. Poor girl didn't even want to make the trip in the first place!

The book lost me a couple times when it became heavy on the war talk and there were several instances of repeated details, but overall, I really did enjoy reading this and will likely hold on to it for awhile in case I choose to use it with my high schoolers.

My favorite quote was this one describing Bisland's thoughts while riding through the English countryside: "It was a landscape she felt she already knew from books; riding through it she was not learning but remembering." That's how I feel, too, when I'm in England. ( )
  classyhomemaker | Dec 11, 2023 |
This is not so much a story about the two women who raced around the world as it is about the culture of the world at that time. It was very interesting to see how women and America were viewed during that time period. ( )
  ArcherKel | Aug 17, 2022 |
The fact that two women traveled around the world in 1889 to beat a fictional record makes this book worth reading. Unfortunately, parts of it come across as repetitive (because they travel in different directions but on a similar route). Still, a fun read. ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
A richly detailed double narrative of the adventures of two young women journalists in a race against time, each striving to be the first to travel around the world in 75 days, outdoing the fictional Phileas Fogg’s 80 days...The author also examines the shenanigans of the press, the vicissitudes of travel and the global power of the British Empire in the Victorian era.
added by mysterymax | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 31, 2013)
 

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Goodman, MatthewAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mazur, KatheNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"You have a strange way, Ralph, of proving that the world has grown smaller. So, because you can go around it in three months--" "In eighty days," interrupted Phileas Fogg. --Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
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She was a young woman in a plaid coat and cap, neither tall nor short, dark nor fair, not quite pretty enough to turn a head: the sort of woman who could, if necessary, lose herself in a crowd.
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Biography & Autobiography. History. Nonfiction. HTML:NATIONAL BESTSELLER
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.
 
The two women were a study in contrasts. Nellie Bly was a scrappy, hard-driving, ambitious reporter from Pennsylvania coal country who sought out the most sensational news stories, often going undercover to expose social injustice. Genteel and elegant, Elizabeth Bisland had been born into an aristocratic Southern family, preferred novels and poetry to newspapers, and was widely referred to as the most beautiful woman in metropolitan journalism. Both women, though, were talented writers who had carved out successful careers in the hypercompetitive, male-dominated world of big-city newspapers. Eighty Days brings these trailblazing women to life as they race against time and each other, unaided and alone, ever aware that the slightest delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
 
A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, from its frenzied start to the nail-biting dash at its finish, Eighty Days is history with the heart of a great adventure novel. Here’s the journey that takes us behind the walls of Jules Verne’s Amiens estate, into the back alleys of Hong Kong, onto the grounds of a Ceylon tea plantation, through storm-tossed ocean crossings and mountains blocked by snowdrifts twenty feet deep, and to many more unexpected and exotic locales from London to Yokohama. Along the way, we are treated to fascinating glimpses of everyday life in the late nineteenth century—an era of unprecedented technological advances, newly remade in the image of the steamship, the railroad, and the telegraph. For Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland—two women ahead of their time in every sense of the word—were not only racing around the world. They were also racing through the very heart of the Victorian age.
Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
“What a story! What an extraordinary historical adventure!”—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
 
“A fun, fast, page-turning action-adventure . . . the exhilarating journey of two pioneering women, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, as they race around the globe.”—Karen Abbott, author of American Rose
 
“[A] marvelous tale of adventure . . . The story of these two pioneering women unfolds amid the excitement, setbacks, crises, missed opportunities and a global trek unlike any other in its time. . . . Why would you want to miss out on the incredible journey that takes you to the finish line page after nail-biting page?”Chicago Sun-Times (Best Books of the Year)
 
“In a stunning feat of narrative nonfiction, Matthew Goodman brings the nineteenth century to life, tracing the history of two intrepid journalists as they tackled two male-dominated fields—world travel and journalism—in an...

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