Jasper Fforde is easily in my top authors. Shades of Grey, The Big Over Easy, and of course, the Thursday Next series are all amazing works with levels of both creativity and writing that are nearly unparalleled in my reading experience.
But enough gushing for the moment. Let’s talk about The Eyre Affair (2001).
This is the first of the Thursday Next series, though I think it was the fourth book that I actually read. I went through the series a bit out of order as I actually had some trouble finding this one.
Of course, when I did find it, the copy I bought used had been marked up. I don’t mind people writing in the margins, sometimes it’s fun and insightful. Like YouTube comments. However, also like YouTube comments, sometimes it’s just destructive, and that was the case here.
Basically, the previous owner went through and marked out very heavily, in ink, all of the curse words. And as one of the villain characters is named Jack Schitt, I’m sure you can see how this dislike of cursing wreaked havoc on my copy of the book.
Anyway, rant over.
Thursday Next works for Special Operations (SpecOps) in the LiteraTec division where they patrol basically everything to do with literature. And, in this alternate version of Britain in the 1980s, literature is a very big deal. There are whole, sometimes militant, societies dedicated to particular authors, poets, or even specific works. The debate over who actually wrote the Shakespeare plays runs throughout the novel as well as many other literary allusions.
Thursday is up against Acheron Hades, a thoroughly evil man who has stolen her uncle and his ingenious invention, the Prose Portal, which allows people from the real world to travel into a book world and vice versa.
It was really interesting to see how it all started as I originally jumped in at about book four, when Thursday is already regularly traveling into the Book World without the use of her uncle’s invention. The world feels real and fully-formed; even the occasional expositional dialogue feels completely natural.
There are too many things that rock about this book so I’ll just throw out five things that I love:
- Performance of Richard III that reminds me of Rocky Horror with the audience reactions.
- Bookworms emit extra apostrophes, prepositions, and capitals that actually affect the text of the book.
- Landon Park-Laine is the most understanding man on the planet, even when he doesn’t understand a single thing that’s happening.
- All of the characters are quirky and quite possibly mad, but it seems to work for them. I never have trouble believing that Uncle Mycroft is a genius who creates impossible contraptions daily or that Thursday’s unnamed father has a face that can stop a clock. Even the walk-on characters are fascinating.
- Thursday Next is a fabulous main character. Her fatal flaw is her inability to ignore a crisis situation. She has a hero complex, but she hates being recognized for her heroism. Other than that, she is a tough as nails but still sometimes emotionally vulnerable character. She is vastly intelligent and fiercely opinionated.
And one thing that irked me:
- What happened to Spike? Thursday fights off a vampire with him, they have a moment, and then he never reappears in the book. And I don’t remember if he shows up again in later books, though I hope so because I really liked him here.
I highly recommend checking out the Thursday Next series if you like offbeat fantasy and literary jokes.
I’m counting this as my first book towards John Guillen’s Reading Challenge. Check out the list here. I love challenges like this because I’m always glad to give my reading some direction.
I’ll peg this one as “A book set in another country.”