Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.
I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to Jules Verne, and, shamefully, it only occurred to me a few months ago that I must get on and read Around the World in Eighty Days (Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours; 1873), which I've owned for decades and always meant to read but never felt the urgency despite Verne being such a much-loved author. But finally I have read it and I really did enjoy it.
Verne writes about Phileas Fogg, a Londoner; the best word to describe him is exact. One day an article in The Daily Telegraph appears that states that it is theoretically possible to travel around the world in eighty days. A debate in his gentlemen's club arises as to whether it is practically possible and, the upshot is Fogg decides that it is and sets out to prove it, making a £20,000 bet that he'll return to his London club on 21st December at 8.45 P.M. having gone from London through Suez, India, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, and then back to London.
Taking his valet Jean Passepartout, Fogg sets off immediately. What he doesn't bank on, however, is on that very day a bank robbery takes place. The national interest in Fogg's endeavour means that the wager is a matter of public interest, and the police suspect that it was Fogg who committed the crime. A Scotland Yard detective, Detective Fix, follows in hot pursuit so Fogg and Passepartout have not only the challenge of sticking to their very strict schedule, but also avoiding arrest and the many other rather random trials and tribulations that crop up along the way.
It is a very exciting and gripping novel. Though Fogg himself is very calm and collected throughout, Passepartout's nerves add to the general rush when reading it. It really is a thrill, and it's perfect escapism. I loved it, and I'm looking forward to reading some of Verne's science fiction next, most likely Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.