Tuesday, December 04, 2012

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Author: Jules Verne
Published in: 1870

My Star Rating: 4 stars out of 4 = I Like It

My 7th grader was assigned to read the unabridged edition of this classic novel for his "not a homeschool co-op". I read this aloud or listened to the audio book with him. I had never read this classic before, nor had I seen any of the movie adaptations.

This classic novel was written by a French author, Jules Verne, and was first published in French in France. It became popular and was later translated to English. It was considered science fiction at the time.

The narrator of the story is a French scientist, Pierra Arronax, who is a trained medical doctor but who specializes in and has published scholarly books about marine biology. The story is set in 1866 with worldwide fear of a sea creature that is attacking ships and taking human lives. Arronax goes on the hunt as a marine creature expert.

As you probably know, the problem is not a whale but a submarine who caused the deaths. Arronax, his servant, and a whale hunter wind up overboard and are rescued by Captain Nemo, who takes them aboard The Nautilus. Since at that time submarines were not yet mainstream, these ideas were on the cutting edge of technology and were futuristic for the time.

Nemo is a recluse who plans to live his entire life secretly living on The Nautilus. He saved the three men's lives yet he intended to keep them prisoner there for the rest of their lives. The three men have different feelings about the unique adventure of undersea exploration, some feel free and liberated while others feel trapped and dream of escape.

Arronax spends a lot of time describing what he sees as they explore the oceans. We hear detailed descriptions of plants, coral, and all manner of sea creatures including their Latin names. Arronax is also intrigued by The Nautilus and wants to know how it works. Captain Nemo, a former engineer, designed the submarine and shares the secrets with the scientist. Things such as how clean air for human breathing is obtained and stored, what fuels the submarine and how it manages to not be crushed under pressure are discussed in detail.

The adventure and excitement of the story is long and drawn out and at times the detailed descriptions seemed like overkill. This bothered both me and my son. This book takes a long attention span, for it is a large volume. We finally start to understand more about Nemo and what is driving him: revenge. However not a lot of detail is revealed about the issue and Nemo remains a bit of a mystery even in the end.

The language in the book is old fashioned and there were many large words which may have been popular in 1870 which I have never heard used in my life. I had to use the dictionary to look up their meanings. These large words and the former style of writing long sentences that today would be labeled run-on sentences may turn off some readers, whether they are preteens, teens, or adults.

I won't tell what happens in the end lest it spoil the story.

I have a feeling that based on the focus on technology some boys would be more interested in this book than girls. Any child interested in the ocean and ocean life would enjoy this book.

Many abridged editions of this story have been published.

In reading more about this classic book I discovered that what Americans call the unabridged edition is indeed an edited version. There is a longer version which is said to have even more of a visionary environmentalist theme (save the whales and man and civilization is corrupt). I am now curious how the new translation compares to the one I just read.

This book is available for free eBook download on Amazon.com. Many paperbound copies of the unabridged book are avaiable.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Norman Dietz and was published by Recorded Books. This edition may be out of print. See link below. Your library may carry it, or Audible.com. I enjoyed Dietz's reading because he had an excellent voice for Arronax showing that he was an educated and refined gentleman. Dietz also used slightly different voices for the characters which matched their personality.

Disclosure: See the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

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