Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea'- Review


Penguin Classics

Length: 382 Pages

Opening Line:
'The year 1866 was marked by a strange occurence, an unexplained and inexplicable phenomenon that surely no one has forgotten.'


'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' by Jules Verne was one of those books that I thought that I should read, but never really got around to doing it. There's no good excuse why I had avoided it for so long, but I finally got around to it and I was pleasantly surprised.

The plot revolves around Professor Arronax, an assistant professor at the Paris Museum of Natural History, who along with his servant/ nature classifier Conseil, is invited to join Captain Farragut to board his ship 'The Abraham Lincoln'.

The purpose of their expedition, is to capture an illusive creature named a giant 'narwhal' , which had been responsible for the destruction of several ships on the seas. They are joined by Ned Land, a harpooner, installed on the ship to do the deed of spearing the creature.

When the'giant narwhal' attacks 'The Abraham Lincoln', Arronax, Ned Land and Conseil are thrown overboard during the struggle and they wake up to find themselves on a strange submarine called the 'Nautilius', captained by the mysterious and unpredictable Captain Nemo and his strange, rarely seen crew.

By coming aboard the ship, Captain Nemo makes the trio captive guests on 'The Nautilus' and they embark on an adventure which takes them to the very depths of the ocean and beyond.

When I first began reading this book, I wasn't sure that I was going to enjoy it. It is full of nautical information and species terminology which to be honest, went right over my head. However, as I continued reading this novel, I realised how by including this type of information, it gave the novel an authenticity to it. I felt that this could have been an account from a real person, rather than a fictitious one.

On reading a novel for me, one of the most important; if not THE most important thing I look for in a book, is how the characters are constructed within it. In my opinion, if a writer can not create a convincing, likable or at least interesting main character, then I don't bother to continue reading. In my opinion, 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' has very good character structure.

As the novel is written from the perspective on Professor Arronax, this made the book convincing and the way he talks to the reader, draws the audience in, rather than keeping them at a distant.

For me though, the most interesting and complex character within the novel, is Captain Nemo. He acts as a juxtaposition against Arronax, because rather than drawing the audience and characters towards him, there remained a distance which made his character mysterious through the book. I could never really decide whether Captain Nemo was someone I should like or a dangerous character and I found him fascinating. On one hand, he loved the animals living with him in the depths of the ocean and then the next, he would show a brutality towards them, which seemed rather barbaric. So this complexity gave the book edge and an interesting element.

The plot was rather slow at times, but as I'm from the 'MTV Generation' which wants everything immediately, I decided to fight the instinct to want the plot to hurry up and I just let the pace of the story take over. In the end, I enjoyed the more sedate flow of the novel. The story may have had slower parts within it, but that doesn't mean to say that this novel was boring, far from it.

It was filled with wonderful descriptions of the colours and movement of the creatures in which Arronax encountered during the journey and there were parts within the novel which had me on the edge of my seat.

One thing that I would have liked and I'm not sure if this is included on other editions of this novel, but that would be a map of the journey that 'The Nautilus' took throughout the novel. This is because my geography is pretty terrible and so if there were some sort of visual aid, then I would have found it easier to visualize the places which the crew visited a little easier.

One minor criticism of this novel, would be the ending. I felt that this novel had a bit of an anticlimax, but I'm being picky here. This kind of story, would be quite difficult to find any ending to be honest.

It is very rare to read a book which is unpretentious and is just what I call 'a proper story'. However I feel that 'Twenty Thousands Leagues Under the Sea' had a sense of adventure, that most modern books are lacking nowadays and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading more of Jules Verne's novels in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review. I agree with your statement that Captain Nemo is a mysterious character. Sometimes Nemo is sympathetic and sometimes almost acts like a villain.