This sounds like a great premise for a suspenseful novel. But it’s not a novel. This all really happened. And that’s what makes this book so fascinating. This is not the author’s imagination at work, describing what this race may have been like. This is the world – and world travel, in all its steam-powered glory – as it really was in 1889.
Goodman does a wonderful job of showing Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland as real people. Much of his source material was drawn from their journals of their trips. The chapters alternate between the two women, but he describes their journeys in parallel, so the suspense is kept until the very end. I actually found myself feeling stressed halfway through the book, as yet another snag in the travel plans hit.
This race around the world is an event I never would have known about if not for Goodman’s book. It’s an event well worth knowing! I don’t think I would have the courage even now, in 2013, to set off on an around the world voyage by myself. Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland deserve all sorts of credit and recognition. I’m so glad Matthew Goodman has done his part to bring their fascinating journeys to light.