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Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World

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Follow the travels of two intrepid journalists as they circumnavigate the world, 125 years apart.

Rosemary Brown does a fantastic job “following Nellie Bly” in this aptly named travelogue. Investigatory journalist Nellie Bly lived in the late 19th century and circumnavigated the globe in 72 days to and from NYC. Brown, also a journalist, captures the spirit of adventure and travel in her attempt to follow in Nellie Bly’s footsteps. 


Brown’s first stop is Amiens, France, to visit the house of Jules Verne. Nellie Bly was inspired by Verne’s book, Around the World in Eighty Days, and determined to beat the eighty-day record of fictional character Phileas Fogg. Nellie was actually able to meet Jules Verne and his wife in person at their estate.


Each chapter title begins “In Which Nellie…” as a nod to Around the World in Eighty Days. Brown begins by providing a wonderful history of Nellie’s rise to journalism fame as a champion for the human rights of inmates of an insane asylum. Brown follows Nellie’s lead in paring down and packing as lightly as possible, and she starts in her hometown of London which was Nellie’s first stop after departing from New York City.


The journey is a fascinating read, and for each new city, Brown first describes Nellie’s experiences, using frequent quotations from Nellie’s book. Then, Brown recounts her own struggles of attempting to find the same landmarks 125 years later. She was successful more times than expected, given that many cities had changed due to war or modernization. Serendipitous meetings and connections with Nellie’s trip abound as though her spirit is accompanying Brown. The reader will appreciate the historic background provided by Brown in every location. I found myself wishing to see her photographs, but I was able to picture it with her vivid descriptions. Brown was not able to follow Nellie exactly, as some countries were not open for travel. She also finished in less than half the time: 33 days, due to the combination of skipping a portion of the trip as well as traveling by air rather than boat. Helpful itineraries and maps for the journeys of Nellie and Brown are in the back.


Brown’s last stop is New York City, exploring Nellie’s point of departure as well as her successful hero’s welcome. She doesn’t stop there but then proceeds to explore Nellie’s grave and then traces her humble beginnings across Pennsylvania, the towns of Cochran Mills and Apollo. Their claim to Nellie’s fame brings tears to my eyes as Brown completes her exploration of not only Nellie’s journey, but life story.

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I’m an educator and pianist, currently homeschooling four children and dreaming of traveling the world. Books are my passion, especially the classics, historical fiction and biographies.

Chapter 1: In Which Nellie Proposes to Girdle the Earth

About the author

Rosemary J Brown is a London-based journalist and author. A Churchill Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), Rosemary helped to organise the first-ever Heritage of Women in Exploration event there. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, plays in a ukulele band and works with refugees. view profile

Published on March 31, 2021

Published by Pen and Sword Books

60000 words

Genre: Travel

Reviewed by