Saturday, March 31, 2012

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Erg. I hate it when scheduled posts don't publish for some reason. My Clarissa post was supposed to go up last night, but for some reason it didn't, so you get two posts from me today instead. I just finished up my eighth book for Adam's Magical March, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I managed to get eight fantasy/science fiction books off my shelves and I've started in on a ninth but since it's 947 pages I don't think I'll finish it today since I'm on page 71. :)

Today's book also counts for the March prompt for November's Autumn's A Classics Challenge. This month's questions are about setting:

Level 1
How has the author introduced the setting? What does it tell you about the character? about the time period? What is the mood of the setting?

Level 2
How do you envision it? Find a few images or describe it. Do you feel the setting is right? or was it a weak point of the author?

Level 3
If this particular setting was changed how would it affect the course of the story?
Setting is an excellent aspect to talk about regarding this classic: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It's all about setting! The book takes place under the sea, obviously, and on board the Nautilus. In thinking about it, I think the setting was also the weakness. I expected magical descriptions of the sea and the creatures in it, but we mostly got scientific information and descriptions of the Nautilus. I expected to feel like I was along for the journey, but I never did. I felt very disconnected and struggled with being able to really visualize the story. I felt sort of like Verne wrote an outline for a story and then half-heartedly filled it in, but didn't go in and put the passion and details and characterization to make this truly a great story. It's not a bad book, but it left me disappointed.

However, I did enjoy reading about the first time our narrator and his companions walk on the sea floor: "The light, which lit the soil thirty feet below the surface of the ocean, astonished me by its power. The solar rays shone through the watery mass easily, and dissipated all colour, and I clearly distinguished objects at a distance of a hundred and fifty yards. Beyond that the tints darkened into fine gradations of ultramarine, and faded into vague obscurity....It was marvellous, a feast for the eyes, this complication of coloured tints, a perfect kaleidoscope of green, yellow, orange, violet, indigo, and blue; in one word, the whole palette of an enthusiastic colourist!"
This section has more vivid descriptions than a lot of the rest of the book, and also sets up M. Aronnax (our narrator) for wanting to continue his journey with the Nautilus, not that he has much of a choice. He sees the chance to explore the world in a way no one else has and be able to improve his studies and scholarly writings. It makes you understand why he's not as desperate as Ned Land is to get off the boat. I identified more with Mr. Land myself. :)

I had higher hopes for this one, but maybe that's because I know it's loved by many, and maybe my hopes were too high. I found it simply to be okay, and it doesn't make me excited to read the rest of Verne's works, although perhaps his non-sea voyages may be more enjoyable. I own Around the World in 18 Days, so I will give that one a shot at some point.


  1. Like your blog. Wow and the reading list is impressive. Good luck with that.

    I do like the watery description.

  2. Thanks! I figure if at least read some of them that will be doing good!:)

  3. Hmmm....I had another comment from someone here, but it seems to have disappeared. They made a good point about translations - mine doesn't even list the translator, which isn't a good sign. For some reason I pay a lot more attention to Greek or Russian translations, but not to French. I don't know why. That may have made a difference in how I felt about it!

  4. That's weird, I wonder where my comment went. It wasn't me! I'm now about 3/4 of the way through my copy, and it is indeed very descriptive about the sea. I think all that description must have made up much of the material that got omitted in the original translation to English.

    1. I'm sorry about that! I got the email notification about your first comment, but it wasn't here when I went to reply. :( Maybe I'll have to find a better, newer translation to try some day!

  5. Anyway, it's still remarkable that Verne wrote about the high technology Nautilus on 19th century! I also like the unique character of Captain Nemo. Compared to Around The World, I like 20.000 Leagues better!