Eighty Days (Goodman)

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World
Matthew Goodman, 2013
Random House
480 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345527264



Summary
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. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Matthew Goodman is the author of three books of non-fiction: Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World (2013); The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York 2008); and Jewish Food: The World at Table (2005).
 
Matthew’s books have been translated into eight languages. His essays, articles, and short stories have appeared in the American Scholar, Harvard Review, Village Voice, Forward, Bon Appetit, and many other publications, and have been cited for Special Mention in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Story anthologies.

He has given book talks at venues including the Museum of the City of New York, the Gotham Center for New York History, the National Yiddish Book Center, the Brooklyn Book Festival, and many bookstores and libraries; his radio appearances include NPR’s On the Media, Back Story with the History Guys, and The Splendid Table; The Bob Edwards Show on XM-Sirius Radio; and numerous others.
 
Matthew has taught creative writing and literature at Vermont College, Tufts University, Emerson College, and at writers’ conferences including the Antioch Writers Workshop and the Chautauqua Institute. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (twice) and the Corporation of Yaddo.
 
He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and two children.



Book Reviews
Two pioneering women hurtle across the globe—and into a changing future—in this stimulating true-life adventure story.... Deftly mixing social history into an absorbing travel epic, Goodman conveys the exuberant dynamism of a very unfusty Victorian era obsessed with speed, power, publicity, and the breaking of every barrier. Photos. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly


Most of us have heard of Nellie Bly, a reporter for Joseph Pulitzer's World newspaper, who left New York City on November 14, 1889, in a bid to circumnavigate the globe in record-breaking time. Fewer people know that Elizabeth Bisland, who wrote for the Cosmopolitan, left New York on the same day with the same goal in mind. Bly won, but this account covers the journeys of both women—traveling in opposite directions and each, initially, without knowledge of the other. Suspense and fabulous locations; sounds like armchair travel at its best.
Library Journal


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. Goodman.... Who was the real winner? Goodman's depiction of the swashbuckling Bly, whose self-regard often seemed larger than her regard for the truth, is somewhat less sympathetic than his portrait of the now-forgotten Bisland. 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. A tad overlong, but entertaining and readable throughout.
Kirkus Reviews



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