Friday, April 22, 2011

The Eyre Affair ~ Jasper Fforde

Before I get started, I have an announcement to make: Tuesday's post was my hundredth!  I'm not sure why numbers like 100 get us so excited but they do and I am.  So much so that I missed it.  Oops!  I had been thinking about having my first ever giveaway in celebration but never really decided and then I forgot so it didn't happen.  Never fear though!  Soy Chai Bookshelf's first birthday is in less than a month and that seems like just as good a reason to celebrate, doesn't it?

The British cover is much better than
the American version.  I love this
scooter-riding Dodo bird.
On to the book.  The Eyre Affair was a rather spontaneous purchase for me, but come on: a world where it's possible to kidnap Jane Eyre right out of the pages of the novel?  It's like Disney World for bibliophiles.  In fact, the Prose Portal would make an excellent addition to any theme park.

A brief summary would not be amiss here: The year is 1985 and the place is England... kind of.  This is a version of England with all the same places - London, Swindon, the Forest of Dean - but things are a bit different.  Holes in time hold up traffic, Jehovah's Witness-style promoters go door-to-door trying to convince people that the true author of Shakespeare's plays was Francis Bacon,  Ohio is a strange and wonderful place, and literature and art are national pastimes.  There are similarities as well, most notably the Corporation, Goliath, which controls everything from the local police department to the war. Okay, so maybe that's more commentary than anything.  I'm not too concerned with the distinction.

At the center of this literature-loving, corporate-controlled world is Thursday Next, a war hero (who now renounces the cause), LiteraTec agent (who's getting a little restless), and emotionally damaged woman (who wants her man back).  She gets drawn into a hunt for Acheron Hades, criminal mastermind and Thursday's former professor, who is guilty of stealing the original manuscript of Dickens' novel Martin Chuzzlewit and using the Prose Portal (which uses actual Bookworms to transport people into the pages of books) that Thursday's uncle invented to steal and kill a minor character from the novel, Mr. Quaverly, before threatening to do the same to Jane Eyre herself.

The novel is at times silly, brilliant, pun-erific, and completely cheesy.  It was more of a detective novel than I imagined (I knew about the crime, but I figured it would be an interested citizen, i.e. Harry Potter, who would set things to right, not a dedicated government organization dealing with literary crimes) which was a bit disappointing, but I got over it.  The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that Thursday spent all her time off whining about the one she let get away and this other one who got away but in a very different way and how she's never going to get some.  The romantic angle really does not belong in this book and culminates in quite possibly the cheesiest chapter known to man, which brings me to another point: the loose threads are tied up annoying well at the end.  Every single thing works out in the end, which is not the way of life, and certainly not the way of series (oh yeah, The Eyre Affair is the first in a series).

Despite these few complaints, I really did enjoy the book.  It made me feel both silly and smart, and was a nice break from all the heavy reading I've been doing.  I laughed out loud on numerous occasions, thanks to literary puns and characters like Jack Schitt and Paige Turner, which is always a plus.  I will definitely be reading the next book in the series, Lost in a Good Book, though not immediately.

My only caveat is that this book will probably be less entertaining if you haven't read the books it mentions, particularly the ones that take center stage.  For example, I've never read Martin Chuzzlewit, so I have no idea if Mr. Quaverly actually appears in its pages.  I'm sure this question could easily be cleared up by a quick internet search, but that's not really the point.  I would definitely recommend waiting until after you've read the entirety of Jane Eyre to read this, if you have not done so yet.  I myself probably won't touch Lost in a Good Book until I've read Great Expectations, as it seems to be featured in Thursday's next adventure.


  1. Glad you enjoyed this one! Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots are better than this one. You get the feeling Fforde got more into the swing of things by that time.

    I'm not sure if you need to know Great Expectations to appreciate LiaGB. I'm just getting around to reading Jane Eyre now but other than some small references I don't think I missed anything in The Eyre Affair.

  2. Yeah, by the time the end comes around everything is cleared up, but I don't know if I would have enjoyed the joke so much if I hadn't been in on it all along...

    But thanks for the reference! I had never heard of Jasper Fforde or Thursday Next before reading about them on your blog!

  3. I was a big Fforde fan, though I've yet to pick up his newest one out right now...I really liked Eyre Affair but of the Thursday Next novels that I've read, I think I like The Well of Lost Plots best of all because of its utter originality. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series, if you choose to go in that direction!