Jules Verne's Scotland: In Fact and Fiction by Ian Thompson is one of those all too rare books that cause you to completely revise your understanding of the subject it covers. The unexpectedness of its contents are nicely illustrated by the epilogue, which includes the text of a number of obituaries published in Scottish newspapers after Jules Verne's death on 24 March 1905. Not one of them mentions that Verne had Scottish ancestry, visited the country twice, loved it, and wrote five novels wholly or partly set in Scotland.
Ian Thompson is Emeritus Professor of Geography at Glasgow University and a leading expert on the life and works of Jules Verne. In "Jules Verne's Scotland" he explores Verne's travels in Scotland and the very direct way they fed through to some of his subsequent novels. The book is approachable and enjoyable, and well written in a style that engages the reader and provides just the right level of detail.
The account of his Scottish travels begins with Verne's arrival in Edinburgh from Liverpool by train late on 26 August 1859. Over the following five days he explored parts of Fife, Glasgow, Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and Stirling before heading back towards France. By the time of his second visit, in July 1879, Verne was an established and reasonably well off author, who could afford to arrive in Edinburgh on board his own steam yacht with a party of family and friends. He revisited Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Trossachs before catching a steamer from Glasgow to Oban via the Crinan Canal. From Oban he sailed round Mull on another steamer, visiting Iona and Staffa en route, before returning to Edinburgh to pick up his yacht and return to France. This time his visit lasted eight days.
By the time of his second visit, Verne had already written three novels partly or mainly set in Scotland; as well as publishing an account of his first visit. He used the impressions gained on his second visit to construct the setting for two more Scottish novels. The second half of the book devotes a chapter to each of these novels, linking settings and story elements to his Scottish journeys, and the book concludes with a review of how much of Verne's Scotland of 1859 and 1879 would still be recognisable to him today. A fascinating read!