Over Thanksgiving, my son, Dan, pressured me to drop everything and read The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. Published in 2000, the Eyre Affair was Fforde's first novel. The book was generally acclaimed, with critics calling it "playfully irreverent," "delightfully daft," "whoppingly imaginative," and "a work of ... startling originality." My son adores this book and the entire series. I found it—interesting—and I heartily enjoyed this book despite the tortuous plot, the side trips that go nowhere, and the occasional moments of HUH?!? WTF….
The first installment in Jasper Fforde’s New York Times bestselling series of Thursday Next novels introduces literary detective Thursday Next and her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England
Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde's Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it’s a bibliophile’s dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career. Fforde's ingenious fantasy—enhanced by a Web site that re-creates the world of the novel—unites intrigue with English literature in a delightfully witty mix. Thursday’s zany investigations continue with six more bestselling Thursday Next novels, including One of Our Thursdays is Missing and the upcoming The Woman Who Died A Lot. Visit jasperfforde.com.
First off, let me say that I have read both Douglas Adams and P.G. Wodehouse. Either one is a lot easier to follow than Jasper Fforde. Heck, James Joyce is easier to follow and he’s darned near incomprehensible.
But Fforde’s writing has a real charm and despite the confusion, and with a certain amount of discipline I was able to get into the swing of things. It is a “fantasy, science fiction, mystery, satire, romance, thriller” of a book. There is a plot; it is most definitely unique and extremely convoluted. However, it is worth the effort.
In 1985, in a parallel universe, England and Imperial Russia have fought the Crimean War for more than a century. England is still a parliamentary government, pretty much owned by a powerful weapons manufacturing company with a questionable agenda, the Goliath Corporation. Wales is a separate, socialist nation, and for some reason that notion cracked me up.
Thursday Next is an awesome character, but following the plot takes work on the part of the reader. So I resorted to taking notes, which helped me keep things straight in my head. In the course of duty, Thursday gets shot and has to take a new job, where she is forced to team up with the awesomely named Jack Schitt, who really is a…. Never mind.
I recommend this book for people who love a real challenge in their reading material. Enough of the plot holes finally get filled in that there is a resolution to the tale. You are probably wondering why I am saying I enjoyed the pain—and I will tell you:
It is laugh-out-loud, freaking hysterical. The names of his characters and the situations he puts them in are genius. Acheron Hades is evil, Landon Parke-Laine is a jerk, Rochester is awesome, Jack Schitt is a turd and Thursday's eccentric family is a riot. Oh, sure, it is uneven and incredibly random, the story travels all over the place and some things are like the Cheshire Cat’s smile in Alice in Wonderland, but stick with it and after a page or two you won't care because you'll be laughing again.
The whole concept of a world where a criminal master-mind can hold a world hostage through literature really rang my bells. Time-travel, entering into a novel and befriending the characters and changing history by changing the classics of literature--it's a grand idea.
Someone else may not have as much difficulty keeping Thursday's adventures straight as I did. Many people, including my son Dan, love this book with a passion, so I recommend you give it a shot.
I am not sure I will read the next book in the series too soon, however—I nearly quit reading this book several times out of frustration, so I won’t start the next installment until I feel up to putting a lot of effort into reading a book. I will read it--just not soon. I am giving The Eyre Affair four stars, because it did entertain me, and Fforde introduces some notions that had my mind working long after I put the book down. That, to me, is the mark of great book.