For this week’s book review, I cover a classic novel by Jules Verne; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It’s the story of three men and their deep-ocean tour of the world in Captain Nemo’s submersible, the Nautilus. A story of captivity, a mysterious captain and to cap it off, the wonders of the ocean.
Here is my spoiler-free review of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea!
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A Short Summary
First, let us talk about the plot. Of course, I won’t spoil anything beyond the beginning of the story, where everything is set in motion.
The story follows and is narrated by a French marine biologist, Professor Pierre Aronnax. Pierre starts the story with stories of a sea monster that started appearing in the news. All these stories are excused as sightings of the foolish or the mad until a ship is nearly sunk by this sea monster.
Being a famous marine biologist in this fictional world, Pierre is not only asked to provide his opinion on what the sea monster is but also asked if he would join the crew of the ship hunting for it, the Abraham Lincoln. Pierre, with his side-kick/manservant, Conseil, boards the ship and starts scanning the ocean.
While they search, Pierre becomes fast friends with Ned Land, a Canadian harpooner.
Due to a battle with this sea monster, Pierre, Conseil and Ned end up in the ocean, soon after taken in by the crew of a submersible. It isn’t too long before they meet the commander, Captain Nemo, who tells them they are his prisoners, because he does not want them spreading the news to the world about the Nautilus.
Thus the story begins, as Captain Nemo plays the gracious warden/host, showing the wonders of the ocean to his prisoners.
It’s a story that is filled with tense moments between the human characters and slow moments where observations are made about the deep ocean and its inhabitants.
The first character we need to talk about is the narrator, Professor Pierre Aronnax.
Pierre is a simple, but intelligent man. He approaches most situations neutrally, with a keen interest in learning. He is not a hardened individual, but an explorer all the same. He is fascinated by the world and its creatures.
Conseil is truly faithful to Pierre, doing as Pierre suggests and when asked about his own opinion, he will say it is the same as his master’s most of the time. While this doesn’t give Conseil much personality, there are moments where his curiosity and friendliness show, especially with interactions with Ned Land.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about Ned Land.
Ned is a sailor through and through. He has a passion for harpooning and became quite well-known in the whaling community. It is no wonder that he is asked to join the crew of the Abraham Lincoln on the hunt for the sea monster making the front page.
Finally, we have Captain Nemo himself.
Captain Nemo is a cold individual, who has a profound distaste for mankind and their ways. He is far more taken with what goes on in the ocean than what is happening on land. From his personality, you will encounter sadness, anger and plenty of mystery. Truly the most interesting character in the story, at least in my opinion.
The Writing Style
Jules Verne’s writing style is straightforward enough. He doesn’t linger too much on the emotions and ponderings of his characters but simply has them speak their mind. For that reason, his characters are easy to understand as they make themselves clear.
When it comes to the descriptions of the environment, he takes his time. A lot of the story is spent describing the ocean, the environment, and the aquatic creatures in great detail. Of course, that is another side of the novel. It is ‘A World Tour Underwater’ after all.
I found the book easy to read and I believe anyone ages fifteen and up should be able to get through the book just fine. It is a fairly evenly-paced book as well, making it a more casual read that is best when you take your time with it.
Personal Thoughts on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
I remember attempting to read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea when I was very young. I liked the look of the cover and I had an interest in anything to do with the sea at the time. I don’t recall exactly how far I got with the book, but it certainly wasn’t further than the first couple of chapters.
Much older and with a respectable attention span, I finished the book with a mixture of emotions that took me a few moments to figure out. The book interested me in the beginning, was losing me in the middle, but captured me at the end.
There was a ‘call to adventure’ feeling in the beginning, which I love in any book. After that, it became something tense, but not tense. Interesting, but not interesting. Nothing really gripped me and I was slowly drifting away from the book. While I won’t spoil the ending, it certainly saved itself in my eyes.
Despite this, I enjoyed the concept, the characters were believable despite the situation and when I wasn’t reading, my thoughts did drift to life underwater. I can see why the book is a classic.
That brings us to the end of this book review!
It was interesting reading this classic as well as reviewing it. Before I started writing this review, I was debating whether there was a need to. The book is a classic, it is still being read and enjoyed for over 150 years.
I eventually realized that is one of the reasons to still talk about it, to provide one’s opinions and then recommend it or not. I can happily recommend Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to reader’s who are interested in going on an adventure in the legendary Nautilus, meeting the Captain Nemo and seeing what wonders swim so deep below the surface of the sea.
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!