Wirral Council, a local authority in the northwest of England has today confirmed that the French author Jules Verne set his classic 1874 science fiction novel The Mysterious Island in the town of Birkenhead, lying just across the River Mersey from Liverpool.
Alan Evans, Wirral’s director of Regeneration and Place has ‘fully endorsed’ the findings of local historian John Lamb, who has been researching Jules Verne’s links with Birkenhead for the past three years.
Evans has stated in a letter to Lamb: ‘To find a book as important as Mysterious Island is set on the Wirral and has so many obvious connections to both our physical geography and Victorian Heritage has surprised us all.
‘We would like to confirm that we fully endorse your findings and are excited at what possibilities this may bring in future as we go about the regeneration of Birkenhead.’
Jules Verne is the second most translated author of all time, ranking just behind Agatha Christie and ahead of William Shakespeare. He is known as the ‘Father of Science Fiction’ and famous for his novels Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869), Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), and The Mysterious Island (1874).
Mysterious Island is the sequel to Jules Verne’s 1869 masterpiece Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and marks the return of the infamous Captain Nemo and his fabled submarine the Nautilus.
Earlier this year, Lamb’s website ‘Jules Verne and the Heroes of Birkenhead’ revealed that the hull of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus had its fictional origins at Laird’s shipyard of Birkenhead. The website has previously been recommended by the Société Jules Verne in Paris.
The plot of Mysterious Island is set during the American Civil War and follows the adventures of five prisoners of war, who escape in a balloon from the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia.
A storm sweeps them south westwards for five days until they land on an unchartered volcanic island in the South Pacific.
One man already lives on the island, his name is Captain Nemo, and his submarine, the Nautilus is trapped in a massive sea cave. He observes the castaways and is so impressed with their efforts to survive, that he resolves to help them in any way he can without revealing his presence on the island. Nemo finally makes contact with the castaways when the erupting volcano threatens them all.
Lamb comments: ‘I believe this is one of the most important discoveries in modern science fiction as it reveals the writing style of Jules Verne in describing real life geographical locations in hidden deep metaphor.’