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Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the Worldby Matthew Goodman
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Two pioneering women hurtle across the globe — and into a changing future — in this stimulating true-life adventure story. Historian Goodman (The Sun and the Moon) follows the 1889 voyages of Nellie Bly, a New York World reporter who embarked on a headline-grabbing assignment to circumnavigate the world in a record-setting 75 days, emulating Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 Days, and Elisabeth Brisland, a literary essayist press-ganged by her magazine's owner into racing Bly around the world in the opposite direction. Goodman vividly recreates their stormy, sea-sick travels and exotic Eastern ports of call while examining the revolutionary 19th-century culture of journeying: the proliferating webs of railways and luxury steamships; the swaggering might of the British Empire that guaranteed safe passage; Westerners' sense of wonder at encountering unfamiliar peoples — and their casually bigoted sense of entitlement to rule over them. He also draws fascinating portraits of two self-made women who captured America's imagination by defying its gender stereotypes. (When her editors balked at sending a woman, Bly vowed to beat any man sent in her place.) 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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“What a story! What an extraordinary historical adventure!” Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
“Vividly imagined and gorgeously detailed, Eighty Days recounts the exhilarating journey of two pioneering women, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, as they race around the globe. Matthew Goodman has crafted a fun, fast, page-turning action-adventure that will make you wish you could carry their bags.” Karen Abbott, author of American Rose
“What a delight to circumnavigate the globe with pioneering journalists Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland. The two women carve out an adventurous path in a constrained Victorian world that cares as much about their marriage prospects and the number of trunks they pack as about their trailblazing career aspirations. Matthew Goodman’s lively writing and detailed research bring the story of these two remarkable women to life as they race around the world, full steam ahead, giving us an intimate look at a late-nineteenth-century world that is suddenly shrinking in the face of rapid technological change. Only one of these two remarkable women can win the race around the world, but the reader of this fascinating tale will be certain of a reward.” Elizabeth Letts, author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion
About the Author
Matthew Goodman is the author of two other nonfiction books, The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York and Jewish Food: The World at Table. The recipient of two MacDowell fellowships and one Yaddo fellowship, he has taught creative writing at numerous universities and workshops. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and children.
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