"The barriers between reality and fiction are softer than we think." This statement just about sums up "The Eyre Affair," a bizarre blend of mystery, fantasy, alternate universe novel, satire, and a dash of horror and scifi. With its likeable heroine and delightful plot, this is one that bibliophiles will drool over. It's sort of as if Terry Pratchett wrote mysteries.
It takes place an alternate world where the Crimean War has lasted over a century, vampirism and lycanthropy are like diseases, time can be warped, and people can fall in and out of books and plays -- and if it's the original work, it will change all the other copies. Thursday Next is an agent for a special division devoted to literature, and is on the trail of the villainous Acheron Hades after the theft of the manuscript of "Martin Chuzzlewit" by Charles Dickens. To complicate matters more, her old boyfriend Landen has reentered the picture, and the obnoxious Schitt of the powerful Goliath Corporation is following Thursday.
Hades seems to have been killed, but Thursday is almost sure that he isn't. It turns out she's right -- he kidnaps her aunt and "mad as pants" uncle Mycroft Next, who has just made a machine that allows people to wander into pieces of literature. Hades's plot is to use the machine to disrupt literature as we know it. First he kills a minor character from "Martin Chuzzlewit," and then kidnaps Jane Eyre (in this parallel universe, the novel has a very different ending). Thursday Next teams up with the brooding Rochester and an odd bunch of characters to save Jane -- and all the other great works of literature.
This is one of the best-conceived and best-executed ideas in recent years. A lot of readers probably won't understand all of the literary jokes and in-jokes (it sounds snobby, but if you don't get something then just skip it), as well as some that anybody can understand, like the invention of the banana. The idea of high art as pop culture is delightfully done, like the guy with the "Hand of God" tattoo, or the door-to-door Baconian missionaries, or a John Milton convention. Take a sprinkling of real-life pop culture, make it art-inclined, and that's what you get.
One of the best things about this book is that it overflows with promise for sequels in this universe. Time travel, a chilling scene with a lisping vampire, lycanthropy vaccines, and the wealth of literature are all dealt with, but not so thoroughly that it can't be used again. The writing style is spare and fast-moving, sort of like Terry Pratchett's but more detailed. The dialogue is very good, with a lot of good quotables.
Thursday Next is a likable female lead, very hard-boiled, tough and smart, but with a vulnerable side. Uncle Mycroft is just delightful, mad as pants! Acheron Hades is one of those villains who loves evil for its own sake (well, with a name like "Hades," what can you expect?), and people who like a complex reason for a person to be bad won't like him. "I'm just... well, differently moralled, that's all."
Jasper Fforde's first novel is a slightly frothy, book-hopping, tongue-in-cheek novel. It may not be a work of literature equal to "Jane Eyre," but it's a supremely entertaining and promising one.
on January 11, 2013
What an incredibly fun book, and a great first entry into the Thursday Next series!
I am a huge fan of books about books. It’s very meta, I know, but when you love reading books about books are an added layer of brilliant on an already fun past time. So it was with great glee that I found the Thursday Next series on display at my local bookstore. I was drawn in by the cover art, read the back blurb of one and was instantly drawn in by the phrase “Thursday Next, literary detective”. I mean really, how can you not be intrigued by that premise?
So I bought the first book in the series. I didn’t read it right away. It sat idle for several months. But I picked it up a few weeks ago when another book I was reading just wasn’t cutting it. The Eyre Affair was my hope for respite from a book that had seemed like a chore, and what a lovely respite it was.
I won’t go into too many of the plot details because I don’t want to spoil it for future readers, but the broad view of it is that Thursday’s assistance is required when a well known criminal begins stealing the original manuscripts of a few well known classics and threatens to dangerously and permanently alter them…in a way the reader will not be expecting.
Besides the plot, the small details of the world of Thursday Next are brilliant in and of themselves, and brought me many smiles when I’d come across them. In Thursday’s world Wales is a Socialist country, blocked off from the rest of the world. The dodo bird is no longer extinct (thanks to scientific reproduction), and the characters have names like Braxton Hicks and Jack Schitts.
I highly recommend the Eyre Affair if you are looking for a fun, light read, and especially if you are a lover of books.
on January 4, 2006
This is Fforde's (yeah, two "F"s) first published novel and the first one I've read of his, and I think I'm hooked. It's a novel that has characters named Thursday Next and Jack Schitt; where fictional characters become real and the real can step into fictional stories; where there exists Special Police Forces for Literary Detectives, Neighbourly Disputes, Temporal Stability, and other troublesome matters. It's a silly, literary story written with a Douglas Adams twist: science-fiction, fantasy, thriller, and humour that only hose mad about books may appreciate.
The plot involves Thursday Next, a LiteraTec, investigating the disappearance of the original Martin Chuzzlewit manuscript, which leads to the theft of the original Jane Eyre manuscript. The story has elements of murder, espionage, war, romance, vampires and werewolves, time travel, and off-the-cuff humour, such as:
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
"Because Poe wrote on both?"
Hahahaha! Then there's some dialogue like:
"Haven't I seen your face somewhere else?"
"No, it's always been right here on the front of my head."
Well, all of it isn't that corny, and although I didn't laugh out loud, it did cause some grins.
Highly recommended for those with a literary background, who appreciate off-the-wall humour, and who don't take reality seriously.
on February 22, 2005
I have never been a fan of fantasy or sci-fi, and yet, this was an incredible read. Anybody who has studied literature will find this and the subsequent others absolutely BRILLIANT. It is hilarious: like a bizarre "alice in wonderland" premise where the reader follows Fforde through books - a wild imaginary ride. If you have ever wanted to enter a novel literally - pardon the pun - this novel makes it possible.
Granted, the love affair development between Thursday and Landen is a bit stale, but that is not the focus of the work. The wonderment of this book is how, in the name of all things sacred, did Fforde come up with this plot and story line?! The character development of Thursday Next allows us to see her for who she is in the context of the story, and we can visiualize what her uncle's inventions are or her annoyance at her father's inability to stay more than five minutes at a time.
This was a good distraction from writing my thesis... now, if only I can get my hands on a couple of those bookworms...
on July 12, 2004
As a fan of Jane Eyre, I was looking forward to this book. I found the concept very interesting and delightful. I would love to live in a world where literature held such value.
However, the book was a bit too long. I think he took a while getting to the thick of the story. I don't think there was enough character development, and the villainous characters were almost too hokey to be taken too seriously.
But I was SO UPSET over Fforde's treatment of Jane Eyre. Are we Bronte lovers really supposed to grasp his notion that Charlotte Bronte herself would not have written the ending of Jane Eyre as she had and that a rather unsatisfying ending was her initial intention? Are we really supposed to be satisfied with the turn of the events for Jane and Rochester being brought about the way he described? I didn't find it amusing at all. I found the ending painful to read! It pretty much ruined the rest of the book for me, even though there was much about it that I initially liked. It's like eating a new, delightful dessert, only to get an aftertaste of rotten eggs at the end. If you LOVE Jane Eyre, I would prepare myself before reading this book.
on June 29, 2004
Don't bother reading this book if you are A, poorly read in basic English literature and/or B unappreciative of dry wit. Now that we've eliminated the apathetics, here's the review for the rest of us:
The Eyre Affair is a great love letter to the famous English authors of centuries past, notably Shakespeare, Bronte, Austen, Dickens, etc. Well not really - it's a clever alternate universe thriller in which Litratec investigator/enforcer Thursday Next takes on a case involving the kidnapping of some of the most beloved literary characters in British lore. You see, in Thursday's world, the supernatural is very often a natural part of everyday life; vampires and werewolves are regulated by a department very much like Animal Control, time travel -talented individuals are recruited for their services in government branches, and the integrity of national literary treasures is guarded zealously by top secret levels of those branches. I could love to live in this world were it not so chaotic, what with history being constantly tampered with by various factions and all. Even so, it's great fun to visit.
Author Jasper Fforde can be caught using this forum to stage literary debates and in-jokes, much to the delight of the Anglophile readers. In place of religious fanatics coming to one's door proselytizing, you have Baconians whose mission in life is to convince the world that Shakespeare's works were written by Francis Bacon. Fforde demonstrates a very British tendency to use proper names to lampoon a character. His prodigal creation of Thursday Next is an unlikely mixture of reserved-but-courageous traditional British heroines and modern pop culture action stars reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. Fittingly, Ms. Next's interesting life seems to parallel Jane's a little more closely than coincidence.
If there is one flaw in this book, it's that the reader is thrown into an alternate universe in which we are playing a lot of catch up thoughout the plot. This sometimes had the side effect of distracting me and sometimes it contributed to the humor. Perhaps the author should have included a prologue chapter which summarized the necessary backstory, but overall TEA is worth sticking to nonetheless.
The Eyre Affair is a great find, and I look forward to other tales from this adorably messy universe.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle
on June 26, 2004
The Eyre Affair is a brilliant masterpiece that ranks up with its counterpart, Jane Eyre, as well as Harry Potter and David Copperfield. The style is so clever, the wordplay genius, the plot terrifying, captivating, and original. With wit and originality, Jasper Fforde was able to create a surreal yesterday.
The story follows Thursday Next, who lives in a 1980's England with a regenerated dodo (without wings) and works as a LiteraTec (one who helps to maintain books, particularly old manuscripts of novels/plays by Chalres Dickens and Shakespeare) in SpecOps (divided into thirty or so divisions, it is more or less the police force). She is a thirty-something veterean from the Crimea War, an ongoing battle between England and Russia, who had lost her brother in that war, and something more. Living in a world where time travel is possible (her father was in ChronoGuard, a SpecOps division, and is now rogue, bouncing throughout time to visit Thursday every once in a while), mammoths migrate, and werewolfs hunt down vampires, Thursday also has to deal with the antagonist, Acheron Hades.
An unprincipled villian, Hades nabs Thursday's uncle and aunt, steals the original Martin Chuzzlewhit manuscript, and, with Thursday's uncle's help, kills a minor character in that novel. Insistent upon wreaking havoc simply because he can, Hades then decides to kill Jane Eyre herself, completely remove her from the original manuscript, and thus from every copy of the book worldwide. It is up to Thursday to stop him.
This book has something for everyone. Scifi and fantasy, mystery, romance, and some portions of history, the writing and creativity makes this book a must have. The story begins by simply thrusting you into the world, so you have to continue with it for a few chapters, and not make your decision after the first two pages. A captivating read and particularly well-researched on the Jane Eyre parts.
on June 2, 2004
Jasper Fforde has taken elements from a wide range of literary genres and combined them to take you on a trip that your English Professor never knew. You name it, he dipped into it, time travel, historical, crime drama, romance, but most especially satire.
Thursday Next is the tough but vulnerable female protaganist in the story working the London LiteraTec office. After an almost deadly encounter with an old acquaintance, Acheron Hades (the 3rd most wanted villian in England when he's not presumed dead), the ride starts and doesn't slow down until the (possibly) happy ending. With Thursday's father a rogue agent from the time corp, events like happy endings can change without notice.
Wrap yourself tightly in your suspension of disbelief and be prepared to march the brain cells around to remember the details of great classic books and historical events.
Well written, characters with depth to them and a plot full of enough twists to be a 3 pipe problem for Sherlock Holmes. No, he doesn't appear this time but I'm sure Mr. Fforde has other Thursday Next adventures to share with us and I'm looking forward to them.
on June 2, 2004
Imagine if Raymond Chandler melded with Douglas Adams to produce a sci-fi hardball detective mystery replete with literary references, and you'd have something like The Eyre Affair. The book takes place in a strange version of 1980's England, where the Crimean war has been going on for over hundred years, where Baconians knock on your door to try to convert you to their view of Shakespearean authorship, where a special operations squad exists explicitly to investigate literary crimes, and where the Chronoguard has the ability to travel through time. The novel follows the adventures of Thursday Next, a LiteraTech who is caught up in the hunt for arch criminal Acheron Hades, who is determined to abduct and ransom fictional characters, notably Jane Eyre. The book is not at all academic in tone; it reads like a fast, enjoyable work of popular fiction, but you have to be well read to appreciate it. If you are familiar with the English classics you will have a good sense of what is transpiring, and you will be able to pick up on various clues and enjoy the "inside" literary jokes.
on May 27, 2004
Anyone with a love and appreciation of the written word will adore this book. I remember when it first arrived in the US in 2002. I thought it was such a wild concept and wasn't sure if I'd be ready to enter the unusual world Jasper Fforde had created. So I passed it by. But it stayed with me, and finally, two years later I took the plunge into "The Eyre Affair." And now I've been bitten, smitten, and totally swept away into Thursday Next's world. It's fantastic and filled with colorful characters - from the strong yet vulnerable Thursday Next herself, aptly named a female version of Dirty Harry, to Thursday's wonderful time-traveling dad, her mad-inventor uncle and mischievious aunt, her long-lost love, her pet dodo Pickwick, her fantastic car, her crazy co-workers at Spec-Ops (and watch out for those evil villains) and all of the rest of the people in this unusual surreal version of 1985 England. "Jane Eyre" fans will especially love the chance to "book-jump" with Thursday into Miss Eyre's novel and meet the wonderful characters of THAT world. Rochester! Sigh! Yes, it's all here, folks! Adventure, mystery, car chases, time traveling, romance, Shakespearean interactive theatre, conspiracies, vampires, kidnappings, daring heroics, and satisfying endings. Enjoy the ride!