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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Goodman deftly re-creates the frenzy surrounding Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s infamous race around the world in 1889. While the adventures of Bly, intrepid reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s The World, have survived and been embellished over the last century, genteel literary critic Bisland’s story has sadly fallen by the wayside. Goodman corrects that historical omission by interweaving both their journeys as the two women set out in opposite directions, equally committed to the idea of achieving the record for the fastest trip around the world. Inspired by Jules Verne’s fantastical Around the World in 80 Days, Bly confidently expected to top the fictional feat of Phileas Fogg. Determined not to be outdone by Pulitzer, Cosmopolitan magazine commissioned Bisland, who set out one day later, to race against both Bly and time in an effort to cross the figurative finish line first. As a riveted world watched, these two women galloped around the globe via fortitude and an array of both modern and old-style transportation. Urge armchair travelers to hop on board as Nellie and Liz strike a blow for both feminism and the burgeoning Victorian travel industry. --Margaret Flanagan
This extremely readable and interesting book shines a light on an event which captivated America in the winter of 1889 -- and has since faded into obscurity. In November of that year, the crusading undercover ace reporter Nellie Bly who was a star at Joseph Pulitzer's World newspaper in New York, set out to circumnavigate the world and beat the fictional record set by the Jules Verne character Phileas Fogg in "Around the World in Eighty Days." Bly set out going east across the Atlantic. That same day, another editor from The Cosmopolitan magazine sent another female reporter, Elizabeth Bisand, off in the opposite direction in an attempt to beat both Fogg and Bly.
I had heard of Nellie Bly -- although I knew little about the extraordinary media interest her trip inspired. I had never heard of Bisland, who faded into total obscurity but is resurrected here by author Matthew Goodman as an attractive personality. Hailing from impoverished Southern aristocracy, she was determined, talented, well-read, civilized and very beautiful. She comes across in the book in many ways as the more attractive personality (one feels that Goodman is a little in love with her) even though she lost the race and thereby her chance to become a footnote in journalistic history.
The book alternates between chapters on each woman as they experience their adventures, braving horrible ocean storms and boredom on the waves along with headlong rushes to catch ships of trains. But Goodman also interposes many fascinating little asides on the state of the world and society at a time when the globe had suddenly shrunk making such a voyage possible. For instance I learned that before the railroads, there were 27 times zones in the state of Illinois and 38 in Wisconsin. Boston was 12 minutes ahead of New York.Read more ›
On November 14, 1889, two women set out to do what was once thought to be impossible: make a trip around the world in 80 days or less. The idea was taken from Jules Verne's classic novel, AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, in which Phileas Fogg takes a fantastic and imaginary journey around the world, arriving back home in 80 days. Verne contended that a person really could make such a trip in 80 days or less.
Elizabeth Jane Cochran, who went by the pen name "Nellie Bly," wanted to try. She presented her idea to the editor of The World, a newspaper printed by Joseph Pulitzer in New York City. After much thought and consideration, Nellie not only came to the conclusion that a person could make it around the world in 80 days, she also believed that she could complete such a journey in as few as 77 days. She would travel by boat, train and personal conveyance east from New York. Her editor turned down her idea for two reasons: first, the paper was not ready to send anyone on a journey around the world (although they had been considering it); and second, if they were to do so, they most certainly would not send a woman as they believed only a man could accomplish such a feat alone. But nearly a year later, Nellie was sent a message from the editors saying that they wanted to send her on a trip around the world. So, on that big day, she set sail on the Augusta Victoria on the first leg of her journey.
Unbeknownst to Nellie, Elizabeth Bisland, a journalist for Cosmopolitan magazine, left New York on a trip around the world by train en route to San Francisco, to complete the first segment of her journey. After the announcement was made by The World, Pulitzer decided to make the adventure a race and a competition to see who could get around the world the fastest.Read more ›
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This is a great book about Nellie Bly's trip around the world and her lesser known rival Elizabeth Bisland. Goodman has cleary done his research presenting details not only of Bly's trip but also of her world ranging from a vignette of Park Row and the problems facing female journalists to the unique difficulties faced by travelers of the time. Goodman's narrative is entertaining and well-structured but with so many side notes for historical details the text can become very dense. At times it is also jarring as Goodman tries to create a narrative feel as he postures how Bisland and Bly must have felt at various points in their journeys. An excellent book for anyone interested in travel, journalism, or this time period.
This started as a great book about an interesting topic: in 1890, two women start around the world from NY in opposite directions on the same day. The first, Nelly Bly, wants to beat Phineas Fogg's 80 day jaunt. She is sponsored by the "NY World" newspaper in this publicity stunt. The other, Elizabeth Bisland, is sponsored by "The Cosmopolitan" magazine. She is sent to beat Nelly by heading west rather than east.
The book starts as great and exciting as the trip was about to be. Mr. Goodman's biographies of the ladies and descriptions of the times in which they lived were excellent. Then...the trip began.
Between the two women, there were about 150 days of travel. That means 150 days of transports (trains and ships with rickshaws and other local conveyances), hotels with lobbies and rooms, ships with staterooms, dining rooms and decks and a few people met by the travelers along the way. Of course, there were also meals for 150 days. All of these were described in vivid - and then tedious - detail. Every stateroom, every train car, every sleeper, every hotel was described down to the colors and materials. Almost every meal, it seems, warranted a discourse on all seven courses. What started as interesting and informative descriptions of a unique time in history, the blossoming of the industrial age, was bogged down in an heinous amount of detail.
Mr. Goodman's insights into the world's metamorphosis, especially America's, the size, scope and power of the British empire and the place of women was excellent. His "big picture" makes the book worth reading. His over-emphasis on detail, though, weakened those insights by burying them in needless trivial description. By the end I found myself slogging and rooting for the end of the book as much as for the women to beat the record.
Once again, a reader is left to wonder: Where was an editor to say: "Great book. Cut out 85-100 pages."