Book Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Book Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Posted November 25, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

by Jules Verne

Publisher: Pierre-Jules Hetzel on January 1, 1870
Genre: Classics, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult, Childrens, Middle Grade, New Adult, Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC Character(s)
Content Warnings: Animal Death, Blood, Death, Kidnapping, Violence

Rating: ★★★½

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Professor Aronnax sets off in search of a giant sea monster, only to find the monster is really a steel-plated submarine. Captured by the mysterious Captain Nemo, Aronnax witnesses the exploration of the Nautilus, the remarkable submarine Nemo has invented. But Aronnax comes to learn that Nemo is near insanity and must escape. It's an incredible journey into a mysterious world of excitement and danger!

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is one of my favorite classics.

There’s a bit of nostalgia to it – I remember the first time I picked up the book at my local library as a child. It was a library-bound illustrated classic. It was probably my first true classic and immediately I fell in love with Jules Verne’s science fiction. A couple decades later, I still enjoy it.

That said, it’s a bit difficult for me to explain why I like it so much. Compared to modern books, it’s dense and lacks compelling descriptions. If you hate info dumping, you’ll really dislike Twenty Thousand Leagues. If you really like fish, you may like Twenty Thousand Leagues. Whether it’s a transition issue (the original is in French) or simply the stylistic product of the nineteenth century, there’s not much I can defend about Verne’s writing style. It’s palatable, but it’s flat.

No, for me, I think it’s the adventure.

Verne predicted so many scientific advances in his science fiction, including our flight to the moon and deep into the earth. While submarines aren’t particularly impressive to us in the twenty-first century, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was written as a serialized tale between 1869 and 1870. In the 1860s and 1870s, submarines did exist, but they were not commonplace. Captain Nemo’s mighty Nautilus is almost certainly inspired by the vessel of the same name designed by Robert Fulton in 1800 while in France. Submarines existed, but to built one in such a way that it could withstand so much pressure so deep in the water… those didn’t exist. They still don’t exist to the extend Verne describes. But oh! Jules Verne makes it seem perfectly logical that the Nautilus could do all these things. When reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, you forget the book was written so long ago and are able to immerse yourself in the story. The research is so well done that it still feels real, more than a century later.

Unfortunately, like any classic, this book isn’t perfect. It’s so close to withstanding the test f time except for one chapter. Somewhere along the lines, the Nautilus stops at an island and M. Arronax, Conseil, and Ned Land enjoy the respite. And, on this island, we meet the indigenous people of that area. They are described with most of the tame but still completely atrocious and inappropriate stereotypes of the time, all of which are racist and inappropriate. Whether those words used are in the same spirit as Verne wrote them or if their crudeness is part of the translation, I don’t know. The unfortunate chapter is, nevertheless, there. The book would be fine without it and this is one of those situations where I feel a perfectly good book could be salvaged by cutting a chapter.

All this time later, I think Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea remains a shining example of really good science fiction. Even read today, it holds true as a piece of science fiction, but Verne’s research was so good as to make the whole thing believable. There’s science and mystery and the ever-compelling enigma that is Captain Nemo. I know it’s not for everyone, but I adore Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and am happy to have it in my collection.


Rating: 5 out of 5.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Rating: 2 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Personal Enjoyment

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Stays on My Shelf

Even though I know it seems like a strange classic to love, this book nevertheless remains one of my favorites and I know I’ll escape into it again.

send me your thoughts

Could you live in a submarine?

I could definitely not stow myself away from the world like Captain Nemo. What about you?

Share with me in the comments!

stay magical amber

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2 responses to “Book Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

  1. I read the book a while ago but I thought it was a bit boring with all the details that I wasn’t quite interested in but I really like the idea of the book. I like ‘Journey to the center of the earth’ slightly better. But since the books are translated, maybe the writing wasn’t quite like the original which we’ll probably now know unless you can read the original.

    I could not live under water like Nemo, I need to see the sky now and then, breathe in fresh air. But it’s an enticing idea to live away from the world.

    Have a lovely day.

    • Amber

      Th edition DEFINTIELY makes a difference. The last time I listened to the audiobook for this, it was an edition that went on for about two hours describing fish. When I read my hardcopy, I was expecting all that… and I didn’t get it, thank goodness. Because yeah, I’m not that into fish.

      Have a nice day yourself, Lissa!