The Woman Who Died A Lot: A Thursday Next Novel Hardcover – Oct 2 2012
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Praise for The Woman Who Died A Lot
“Fforde continues to show that his forte is absurdist humor in his seventh crime thriller starring Thursday Next, a member of the Literary Detectives division of Special Operations in an alternate-universe Britain. [An] endearingly-bizarre fantasy world limited only by Fforde’s impressive imagination.” –Publishers Weekly
“As always, Fforde makes this wacky world perfectly plausible, elucidating Ffordian physics with just the right ratio of pseudoscientific jargon to punch lines. It’s a dazzling, heady brew of high concept and low humor, absurd antics with a tea-and-toast sensibility that will appeal to fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse alike. Fforde is ffantastic!”
–Booklist (starred review)
“Strap in and hang on tight.... Another winner for fans and lovers of sf, time travel, puns, allusions, and all sorts of literary hijinks.”
–Library Journal (Starred review)
“Jasper Fforde fans, rejoice! The Woman Who Died a Lot, the seventh installment in his Thursday Next series, delivers all the imagination, complexity and laughs we've come to expect from Fforde and his book-hopping, butt-kicking heroine.The Woman Who Died a Lot brings together the charming lunacy and intricate plotting that have enthralled Fforde's readers over the years.” –Shelf Awareness
“In Misery, Stephen King compares the euphoric feeling writers experience in creative bursts to ‘falling into a hole filled with bright light.’ Avid readers also know that feeling: A good story temporarily erases the world. British novelist Jasper Fforde has expanded on King’s simile in a wonderful seven-book series of novels featuring Thursday Next. Enormously knowledgeable about literary history, Fforde scatters nuggets for nerdy readers like me. By the end, all of Fforde’s myriad particles of plot, accelerated by his immense skill and narrative sense, collide, producing pyrotechnics and a passel of new particles to propel his next tale. I love the Thursday Next books, and when a new one appears, I don’t fall but leap into this bibliophile’s Wonderland.” –The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This is the proverbial madcap lighthearted romp, full of hijinks, parody, and puns. Jasper Fforde does it well. It’s safe to say that if you enjoy that particularly British, Douglas Adams-style absurd delivery of wry observations, you’ll get a kick out of this one.” –New York Journal of Books
“The Welsh writer Jasper Fforde's wildly inventive books defy easy description — more accurately, they mercilessly mock the concept of easy description. Are they mysteries? Outrageous parodies of literary classics? Science fiction? Absurdist humor? Gleeful mashups of all the above?” [The Woman Who Died A Lot is] still big, big fun, with enough in-jokes to keep anyone snickering for a long time — especially English Lit geeks.” –The Seattle Times
“Quirky and surprising and funny. Thursday fans will welcome her return.”–The Free Lance–Star
Praise for One of Our Thursdays is Missing
“One of Our Thursdays is Missing, like other Fforde novels, is jam packed with spot-on parody, puns and wry observations about words and genres that will delight literary-minded fans of the series.” - Los Angeles Times
“There is no denying Fforde’s supersized imagination, linguistic agility and love of books, Books, BOOKS.” - Chicago Sun-Times
“Fforde’s diabolical meshing of insight and humor makes a ‘mimefield’ both frightening and funny, while the reader must traverse a volume that’s minefield of unexpected turns and amusing twists.” - Publishers Weekly
“One of Our Thursdays is Missing is filled with passages [in] which geeky humor jostles with genuine insight about the current state of fiction.… [T]ake a joy ride with the passionate reader who wrote this novel.” - Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“[With a] furiously agile imagination…Fforde has shaken up genres—fantasy, comedy, crime, sci-fi, parody, literary criticism—and come up with a superb mishmash with lots of affectionate in-jokes for any book lover.” - Miami Herald
“Fforde is a breath of fresh air.” -Kirkus
“Fforde’s books are more than just an ingenious idea. They are written with buoyant zest and are tautly plotted. They have empathetic heroes and heroines who nearly make terrible mistakes and suitably dastardly villains who do. They also have more twists and turns than Christie, and are embellished with the rich details of Dickens or Pratchett.” -Independent
“A riot of puns, in-jokes and literary allusions that Fforde carries off with aplomb.” - Daily Mail
“Fans of the late Douglas Adams, or, even, Monty Python, will feel at home with Fforde.” Herald
About the Author
Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out of the window and arranging words on a page. He lives and writes in Wales. The Eyre Affair was his first novel in the bestselling series of Thursday Next novels, which includes Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, and The Woman Who Died A Lot. The series has more than one million copies (and counting) in print. He is also the author of The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear of the Nursery Crime series, and Shades of Grey. Visit jasperfforde.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
When you can feel that this part of England could really exist, and willingly suspend dis-belief in the world of books being real and separate from this dimension, then you have a successful story and an engrossing series.
I'm hoping that more will be forthcoming from Mr. Fforde, both in this series and in the other worlds he has carefully constructed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
No one in modern fiction has built a more intriguing, fully realized, and humorous world than the alternate Earth of Jasper Fforde found in his Thursday Next series. What's amazing about his accomplishment is that he has technically built more than one world in the series; his Bookworld adds yet another layer to Thursday's quirky reality. Now, in his latest release, _The Woman Who Died a Lot_, Fforde has added the world of Dark Reading Matter, which the end notes of this book state will be the focus of the next Next novel.
Yet in reading _The Woman Who Died a Lot_ a major issue with the direction of the Next series becomes clear. As good as Fforde's worldbuilding is, it is overwhelming his narrative. At some point, all the goofy "Nextian physics" and time travel and alt history and parallel realities and parallel subrealities and alt religion start to crowd out something critical to good books: a decent story.
What made the Thursday Next series so much fun was not just the odd world author Fforde thrust his heroine into, but the fact he built that world around good plots. But as the last few books have proven, wrapping a paper-thin plotline around a world doesn't work as well. And sadly, _The Woman Who Died a Lot_ doesn't have much of a story.
Most fans of the series may not miss the fact that it takes a third of the book before a plot begins to emerge. They will love all the goofiness, puns, knowing references, and so on that are the hallmark of this series. That's all well and good, but without a solid story, who cares?
Fforde also betrays himself by hammering his already fragile plot into something like flakes of gold leaf. The novel contains MANY chapters, each a break from the chapter before it, each a subunit of the book, and each subsequently feeling disconnected from the whole. In short, the book doesn't so much flow as it jerks from event to event.
Notice this review's lack of overview of the plot for this book. Problem is, a summary of a couple sentences goes far too far in betraying the entirety of the plotline. Because there isn't much of one--and what there is resembles three or four short story ideas cobbled together, none of which is capable on its own of sustaining a full-length novel. And that's a huge problem.
To make matters worse, the events that kick the plotline forward are so convoluted it makes this reader wonder if all the Nextian physics are interfering with, rather than boosting, the storyline. The wacky world of Thursday Next and her family feels like an intruder, like some annoying person tapping you on the shoulder every couple sentences while yelling, "Notice me!" It all becomes too self-aware, as if Fforde has lost control of the world he so carefully crafted in earlier books.
As a longtime reader of Fforde's books, I wonder if he needs to burn down some of the world he has built and start over. Perhaps the Dark Reading Matter world will be his stab at this. But then, it's just another world to add into the existing ones that already overwhelm the Next novels.
For this series, it seems to me that Fforde neeeds to go back to the main and the plain. We need plot over puns. Labor to make the story interesting and the world of Thursday Next will enhance the plot. But when worldbuilding takes center stage, plot suffers. And we readers don't want to suffer through Thursday angst without a decent story driving it.
So, if you know Fforde and the Next series, why are you here? Certainly, not to get the plot spoiled. I won't spoil it. Perhaps, it's because, like me, you found the previous novel "One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing" to be a bit of a let down. I also didn't enjoy "Shades of Grey" much (because I couldn't develop sympathy for any of the characters). But, I enjoyed the other Next novels so much that I spent almost as much on postage as the book itself to have it shipped from the UK.
So, the question is, "Has Fford lost it?" I'm delighted to report that, if he did, he's found it again!
Maybe if OOOTIM wasn't such a letdown I'd likely have given TWWDAL four stars ("Something Rotten" is still my favorite), but having Fforde back in fine form is by itself worth the five stars.
It is tempting to talk about a subplot or some other detail, but you're already a fan. All you want to know is whether the book might be a disappointment. It isn't!
Here's something of no consequence other than to show that TWWDAL is classic Fforde. Describing a temporal gradient...
"...I [Thursday] walked back up the gradient. I turned back to Friday and asked if he was okay.
"He said he was but I could see that his mouth wasn't moving when he spoke. I was talking to him as he was now, but [i]seeing[/i] him as he would be in about thirty seconds. Conversely, he was hearing what I said now, but seeing me as I had been half a minute ago."
The last book featured the fictional version of Thursday from Book World, but here we are back with the original Thursday. When the book opens, Thursday is still struggling with the mind worm planted by one of her enemies which makes her believe she has a daughter who doesn't exist. Tuesday and Friday, her actual daughter and son, are moving towards adulthood. Tuesday alternates between high school high jinx and cutting edge invention--she's trying to create a giant shield capable of warding off pillars of fire the newly invigorated and angry universal deity is bent on smiting Earth with. Friday is at loose ends. He had been destined to become the most renowned leader of the ChronoGuard, a sort of time traveling police force, and he'd even met his time traveling older self in earlier books, but when it was discovered that time travel hadn't actually been invented in the future the ChronoGuard was disbanded.
Thursday herself is in a career slump, or thinks she is. She is hoping to be put in charge of the re-formed SpecOps Literary Detective Division, but that job is given to a younger woman and Thursday is forced to accept a head librarian job. Adding insult to injury, the mega-corporation Goliath has engineered a series of synthetic Thursdays who combine superhuman capabilities with the ability to download the real Thursday memories.
Meanwhile, a deadly asteroid may or may not be on a collision course with Earth, and something strange is going on in the newly discovered but very little understood field of Dark Reading Matter. Intriguingly, it looks like Dark Reading Matter may be the setting for the next Thursday Next Novel. Can't wait!
Except in the case of Thursday Next, because the heroine of Jasper Fforde's mind-bending alternative-world series has encountered so much weirdness that it's doubtful that a boundary exists that she hasn't already smashed through.
Battling the undead? Check. Befriending reconstructed Neanderthals? Been there. Meeting Miss Haversham? She trained under her. The end of her life? Bought the nightgown. The end of the universe? Not only reached it, but circled around to the beginning. Banal English television? Got the DVD.
If you haven't paged through her first six books, then you should drop this review and get them. If you like Douglas Adams, "Alice in Wonderland"- like logic, classic literature, books in general, and the kind of literate mind-bending weirdness that English writers carry off with such aplomb, it's a guaranteed pleasure that you'll love Thursday Next.
But if you're still with me, then I have an opinion you might not want to hear: "The Woman Who Died a Lot" is . . . all right.
"The Woman Who Died a Lot" opens in media res with enormous changes afoot. The SpecOps Network that Next worked for as a Literary Detective had been abolished and is undergoing reformation. It's been discovered that time travel doesn't exist, so the ChronoGuard that monitored the timestream had been disbanded. Seriously injured at the end of the last book, Next hobbles about on a cane and needs pain patches to get through her day, and she's still beset with a mindworm that makes her believe she has a daughter, Jenny.
See, "The Woman Who Died A Lot" is a lot like the clones that pop up in the book. They look the same as the real thing, they function just as well, even better in some ways. But they don't last long, because they don't have a digestive system, hence their brand name, Day Players.
Same thing with the book. Part of the problem is that Fforde set up a couple of major events in the opening chapters ─ the destruction of downtown Swindon by God on Friday and the mindworm plot ─ then has to wait until the end of the book to set them off. In between, there's not a whole hell of a lot that Thursday can do about them, so she has to deal with other issues. She tries to get a shrink to classify her at the right level of insanity to win a job leading the Literary Detectives; deal with her nemesis, Goliath Industries, which controls society; and figure out the cause of a plague of Thursday clones seemingly intent on replacing her.
All in all, a pleasurable read, with occasional laugh-out-loud moments; librarians will especially love their role in Fforde's world. Despite my complaints, I breezed through this book even when I had more important things to do. So maybe it's me. Maybe I'm irritated because Fforde has two other series whose books I've eagerly awaiting for years ─ the comic Nursery Crimes with its mix of noir and children's lit, and the brilliant Shades of Grey trilogy with its light-based mysteries just begging to be unwrapped ─ and I'm put off by another Thursday Next (or a book in his fourth series, "The Last Dragonslayer," which left me cold). Maybe I'm too old for this.
But there you have it. Not Fforde's best book, but ─ well, I won't say worst, because that implies that there is a worst Thursday Next book, and that's not true. Like Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, a decent Next is still better than a lot of author's best efforts.
The Woman Who Died A Lot, the seventh book in the series, has a lot in common with Something Rotten, mainly that we're back to the real world after a major detour through book world in the previous volume. Normally I would lament the loss of BookWorld, but after the confusing outing that was One of Our Thursdays Is Missing: A Thursday Next Novel, I welcomed the reprieve.
The real-world setting gives this novel a little more direction, not that Fforde would ever allow himself to be constrained by something as flimsy as reality. Thursday still has to deal with the most dangerous job she's ever held (being a librarian), an impending smiting by an angry deity, Goliath clones of herself, and the fall-out from time travel being found impossible back in First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, Book 5).
Fforde does a few things brilliantly here:
1. Thursday is aging. She's older and injured, she hobbles around, has trouble getting up stairs. She's still a bad-ass, but she's just an older, slightly saggier bad-ass. Despite all the ridiculous situations she finds herself in, her character remains grounded in reality.
2. Fforde's writing of memory, memory loss, and its confusing effects is simply genius. Telling a first-person story filled with implanted memories, fake memories, memories some people share and others don't, sudden memory loss, etc., cannot be easy. Fforde pulls it off masterfully. Chapter 36 of this book might just be one of the most brilliant things he has written.
3. The plot is a little ludicrous, but that could just be my distaste for time travel. However, he keeps things rolling along at a good clip and manages this book to feel more like a "literary thriller" than any novel before it. It lives up to its cheesy noir title.
There are also a good many laugh-out-loud moments along the way. A Swindon/Szechuan Fusion restaurant featuring "steak and chips dim sum followed by hot Fanta in a teapot." A righteous man being corrupted by being at "a lap-dancing bar getting plastered and running up gambling debts while eating delicacies made from pandas' ears." Finding the inspiration for Scooby-Doo endings in an obscure work from ancient Greece. Plus some spot-on social satire reminiscent of Terry Pratchett on his A-game.
Tl;dr: This book is delightful. For the first time since the beginning of this new plot arc (beginning with TN5), I'm looking forward to see where Thursday goes Next. (Pun not intended when I first typed it.)