Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lost in a Good Book ~ Jasper Fforde

As mentioned at the end of my review-type-thingy of Middlemarch, I have been reading Lost in a Good Book, the second book in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, following The Eyre Affair, which I read and reviewed a few months back.  Before I put in my two cents about Lost in a Good Book, I'm going to quote what somebody else said about The Eyre Affair (because apparently there are only quotes about the previous book in the series on my copy).  It's described by Independent (whatever that is - a magazine? a website?) as "a silly book for smart people" and that's exactly accurate.  Both books made me laugh out loud, hassle my husband with silly quotes, and pat myself on the back whenever I "get" a literary reference.  Kudos, Mr. Fforde.

So, Lost in a Good Book is, as I jotted on the first page of the book, a pun-erific, literary satire.  Brief summary: Thursday Next, newly married and happily pregnant, is being hassled by Goliath to get Jack Schitt out of the pages of "The Raven."  She is also the victim of several coincidences (which can be spotted by shaking up a jar of dried rice and lentils and analyzing the patterns that they fall in), all of which seem to point to her untimely and violent death, and is being prosecuted in a fictional court (from The Trial) for changing the end to Jane Eyre.  One day, her husband goes missing - apparently he has been eradicated by Goliath as a means of convincing Thursday to rescue Jack Schitt and/or give up her father.  Her husband having drowned at the age of two begs the sensitive question of who that is in Thursday's uterus.  Meanwhile, Thursday learns that she can jump into books at will (who needs a Prose Portal?!) under the instruction of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and the rest of Jurisfiction, the organization that patrols books from within books.  Along the way, Thursday meets the Cheshire Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat, who runs a library of all that has ever been written, discovers a lost Shakespearean play (though of course neither Shakespeare nor anybody else ever wrote most of his plays), learns that her dodo bird is actually a girl, and saves the world from Dream Pudding (strawberry flavor).

I thought the book was great for all the reasons I've already mentioned and those I gave for The Eyre Affair.  It's a great chance for light reading that still feels smart, with a silly adventure that works despite its sheer impossibility.  Again, my only issue relates to the Fforde's treatment of Thursday as a woman.  At the end of the novel, she's semi-forced to take a break from saving the world and defeating evil because she's got a bun in the oven.  She's managed both up until now - why must she suddenly turn into a Victorian woman and go into confinement?!

I'll end with some fun quotes: 

"The so-called 'unfair cheese duty burden' is a very contentious subject at present.  Any reference to it might be constructed as an inflammatory act...  Old ladies who are not dissimilar to the actress in this picture will have to go without their hip replacements and suffer crippling pain if you selfishly demand cut-price cheese... [The Master of the Sums] could raise the custard duty... The pudding lobby is less - well, how should I put it - militant." (15-16) -Mrs. Jolly Hilly, governmental representative

"Wait a moment!" I exlaimed.  "This is the conversation you had in Alice in Wonderland, just after the baby turned into a pig!"
"Ah," returned the cat, with an annoyed flick of his tail.  "Fancy you can write your own dialogue, do you?  I've seen people try; it's never a pretty sight.  But have it your own way.  And what's more, the baby turned into a fig, not a pig." (164) -conversation between Thursday and the Cheshire Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat

"In this 1631 printing of the Bible, the seventh commandment reads: 'Thou shalt commit adultery.' ... I don't know who did this but it's just not funny.  Fooling around with internal Text Operating Systems might have a sort of mischievous appeal to it, but it's not big and it's not clever.  The occasional bout of high spirits I might overlook but this isn't an isolated incident.  I've also got a 1716 Bible here that urges the faithful to 'sin on more,' and a Cambridge printing from 1653 which tells us that 'The unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God.'  Now listen, I don't want to be accused of having no sense of humor, but this is something that I will not tolerate.  If I find out the joker who has been doing this, it'll be a month's enforced holiday inside Ant & Bee." (274) -the Bellman from Sense and Sensibility, leader of Jurisfiction meetings


  1. I can't decide if the summary you gave will make sense to anyone not familiar with Thursday Next. It makes sense to me but then you read something like "and saves the world from Dream Pudding (strawberry flavor)" and I realize how ridiculous it all sounds.

    I didn't have a problem with Thursday hiding out by the end of the novel. And if you do pick up The Well of Lost Plots (my favorite of the series) you'll see she hardly stays locked away while in this "fragile state".

  2. That was kind of the point of my summary - to emphasize how ridiculous it all is! And I will definitely be reading The Well of Lost Plots. Thanks so much for introducing me to the series!

  3. Yes, fun book! And I completely agree with Red that The Well of Lost Plots is the best of the Thursday Next books. In addition to being chock full of the usual absurdities, it is one of the few truly original books I've ever read.