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on August 18, 2017
I love this book! The start of the Thursday Next series is where we enter an alternate reality in Swinton where zeppelins dominate and jets never really got off the ground, and where there was a window of time when you could get your own dodo bird as a pet. Thursday has the ability to enter books to solve literary crimes such as the abduction of Jane Eyre from the book of same name! I am only giving it a 4 star rating because I love some of the others in the series even more!
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on May 30, 2017
Fast paced fun and very witty. A great light read that will have you chuckling aloud as you turn the pages great fun and serious witso watch where you read this one.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon February 24, 2007
"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.
3 people found this helpful
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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.
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on April 24, 2004
In order to save your time and money, if you don't like books that require you to suspend your disbelief, don't buy this book. On the other hand, even if you are one of those who generally don't enjoy books that require the reader to use his imagination, you can enormously enjoy this book. So I guess it all comes down to whether or not you are willing to risk it...
The plot is pretty strange. Fforde takes us to a surreal version of Great Britain, in the year 1985. We can recognize some aspects of his world, but not all of them. For example, in the author's world, technology is much more advanced (it is acceptable to clone extinguished animals and to have them as pets), the Crimean War didn't stop and everybody loves literature. It could be said that literature is for them what sports are to us: a national passion. Anyway, in that kind of world, that is already beginning to sound weird (but in a nice way), there is a Special Operations Network that was created in order to "handle policing duties considered either to unusual or too specialized to be tackled by the regular force". Most of the operatives are rather peculiar. There is a saying that explains that more clearly: "If you want to be a SpecOp, act kinda weird...".
Miss Thursday Nexts is a Spec- Op 27 who loves literature and specializes in problems related to literature, like all Spec-ops 27. She is intelligent and capable, strong but also vulnerable, and she was a sense of humor I found delightful. Thursday is more or less bored with her job, due to the fact that she finds it too routinary. After all, how many book forges can you detect before getting bored?. However, something is going to happen that is going to change her ordinary tasks. Someone discovers a way to "jump" into books, and as a result a criminal mastermind has a strange idea: he devices a way to kidnap a character of one of the most beloved books.
From that point onwards, the reader will accompany agent Next in her bizarre investigation. I can guarantee something: you won't be bored. The plot has a high degree of unpredictability, and some characters are not only atypical but also mystifying. As a result, "The Eyre Affair" has a dreamlike quality I consider enchanting and very appealing. You might be puzzled sometimes, but you will relish that feeling.
I would like to highlight the fact that the author makes lots of literary allusions, but that is only to be expected, due to the fact that in Thursday's world literature is extremely important. An small example?: so many people change their names in order to have the name of a famous author, that they need to be also identified with numbers, to avoid confusions. From my point of view, the constant evident or implied references to literature (books and characters) was charming. I probably didn't catch all the allusions, but I caught enough of them in order to be interested and pleased. I don't think you need to be an "expert" in order to enjoy this book. Even if you don't have a high degree of knowledge regarding literature, you are bound to appreciate it... And who knows, you might end up learning a bit, as I did.
Fforde style is eccentric and whimsical, but I loved it. This book was certainly something different, that made me think several times, and laugh a lot. I will continue reading the series, because I value a good book that is original, and Fforde is decidedly capable of writing them. On balance, I highly recommend this book to you. Enjoy it as much as I did !.
Belen Alcat
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon May 25, 2004
Thursday Next has been working on Shakespeare-related literary crimes in London as a Special Operative when she's summoned into a special assignment with a highly classified outfit. It all relates to a run-in she had with a professor while in college. The assignment leaves her literally flat on her back, and after recuperating she's off to return to her hometown to face her past and her future. She's been trying to escape from both since her unit was decimated in a terrible lost skirmish in the Crimea during which her brother was lost, and her relations with the love of her life were terminated.
While there, important manuscripts begin disappearing in unexplained ways and she finds herself in the middle of the investigations. Helped by unexpected interventions from outside this time and dimension, she makes steady progress towards protecting Dickens and Bronte from unpopular bowlderizations.
Talk about crossing genres. Mr. Jasper Fforde literally wrote the book on this subject with The Eyre Affair.
I became interested in this book after reading and being delighted by the brilliant third book in the series, The Well of Lost Plots. Although both books can be easily understood as stand-alone efforts, you will probably be more thrilled by The Well of Lost Plots if you sneak up on it by reading the other two books first.
Ultimately, these books most appeal to those who love literature as readers . . . and for whom classic characters seem like old trusted friends. Those who like science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and adventure stories will be much less pleased. Those aspects are icing on the cake rather than the cake.
To me, The Eyre Affair seems like a literary update and enhancement of Alice in Wonderland with Thursday Next as Alice.
The Britain you will read about in this book differs substantially from the current one. Although the reason is never stated, I inferred that this one that has been influenced by time travelers to the detriment of Britain. The Crimean War has been going on since the 19th century between Britain and Imperial Russia. Wales is not part of Britain and is a people's republic that is not sympathetic to Britain. Literary debates are more important than political ones. Britain has succumbed to the military-industrial complex in ways that are usually ascribed to the U.S.A. Much technology is primitive (such as air travel by dirigibles) while other technology is very advanced (time travel, cloning of extinct animals as pets, and dimension shifting).
Although the book obviously involves Jane Eyre, please realize that the connection is perhaps slighter than the title suggests. The overall themes of the book involve the classic struggles between the light forces of good and the dark forces of evil, against a backdrop of unrequited love.
The satire is layered on with a heavy hand. The names give you a sense of this. One character is named Braxton Hicks . . . and he's just a little jumpy!! One of the villains has a name that will make you chuckle every time you read it. The overall effect is a lot like Voltaire's Candide and occasionally has an element of Rabelais.
Regardless of any temporary drawbacks in the book to your preferences as a reader, the charming moments will easily carry you forward wondering what marvelous writing innovation next awaits you.
Plan to read this one in one sitting. It's hard to put down.
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HALL OF FAMEon April 18, 2004
The concept of parallel universes is a powerful literary contrivance. It allows an author to indiscriminately devise characters, circumstances and mechanisms not allowed in mainstream fiction. Inventive abilities are the only restraining element. Fforde fully displays his inventive talents in this fantasy of a world dominated by literature and its characters. Setting the story in a alternate 20th Century Britain, he provides a familiar scene. The familiarity is disrupted by unusual events - like a "temporal anomaly" appearing on a country road. British imperialist ambitions haven't been shed, but they're confined to the Russian Crimea where a war has peristed for over a century. All this becomes necessary background in a story of a LitCop striving to protect the reputations and products of British writers.
Literature is held in high regard in this tale - that alone should recommend this book. Authors are memorised in this society. Books discussed and debated, characters assessed, true authorship is argued over when the merest hint of alternatives presents itself. Inevitably, the issue of who actually wrote Shakespeare's works consumes substantial space in this book. Societies form to debate the issue, taking to the streets or vandalising when milder forms of assertion fail. As a SpecialOps agent, Thursday Next is caught up in much of this, but her true role is that of combatting Evil. Evil, of course, is personified in a former teacher of Thursday's, Archeron Hades - "a lech". Thus, with one phrase, the protagonists are identified and innocent womanhood is threatened by male dominance. Even Harry Potter tales don't portray as starkly as this. But Harry Potter is written for children - who are more critical.
Archeon is the archetypical - whell, not "mad scientist" - let's say "mad scholar". There's a bit of "world domination" in his thinking, but mostly he's interesting in pulling off the coup having the most impact. After a rehearsive heist of one manuscript, he goes after The Big One, the Kohinoor of British literature - Jane Eyre. If he scores this, he can manipulate every copy of the book ever printed. Then what? Enter the other giant figure - Goliath Corporation - which, like all powerful businesses in today's world, has lost sight of the dividing line between commerce and government. The Crimea has become THE icon of British power and must be retained. What could two such monumental forces of Evil not achieve working together? Especially given that Goliath's representative is named Jack Schitt.
Thursday, who has lost a brother in the Crimea and a fiance to her work, opens the story by losing two colleagues to Hades in a botched arrest attempt. Hades has "special powers" granting him the ability to steal undetected and escape in a variety of disguises. For a resident of a society supposedly steeped in literature, some of Thursday's gaffes are more than just perplexing. Examples abound that she might draw upon, but it would curtail the tale. She perserveres, and the path to the climax isn't overly complicated. The solution to overcoming Hades' bizaare powers is jarring in its irrelevancy, but we have to forgive Fforde for running out of inventiveness here. He's used up so much getting to this point.
Fforde's literary knowledge is impressive. He works in many points and debates, even if they have to be inserted forcefully. He pushes people into text and pulls them out into "reality" with real aplomb. If you're not into Victorian Literature, Fforde kindly weaves plots and characters from it into this story. Thursday recounts "Jane Eyre" for her distracted partner, and the Shakespeare debates are given full airing. Fforde's style makes the presentation tolerable, which reading the original cannot. It is that ability with language that overcomes what might be serious shortcomings in this book. Don't read it to pick apart the implausible events or stereotyped characters - read it to enjoy Fforde's talent as a writer. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on April 14, 2004
Surreal ! This is a literary adventure in a parallel universe; Great Britain in 1985, the year perhaps chose to leave no doubt that this is science fiction of the "almost might have been" variety rather than the speculative type which fantasizes about "one of many possible futures" . The Crimean war still has Russia and England facing off as adversaries after 130 years, air travel is by "gas bag", the border between England and the People's Republic of Wales is sealed, and occasional rents in the space time continuum are repaired by the Chronoguards (SO-12). (In fact, Tuesday's father is a renegade member of the Office for Special Temporal Stability, but in fact perhaps I need his help since I seem to have gotten ahead of myself.) The Special Operations (SO) network has been formed to handle specialized and unusual police matters, with the thirty departments being denoted by a number in reverse order to their secrecy and hierarchal rank. When we are introduced to Thursday Next (the enjoyable heroine of this tale), she is a Literatec, that is, an SO-27, an operative in the Literary Detective Division. However, she is about to be temporarily assigned to SO-5, a department so secret that its name cannot be revealed but is attempting to trace the mysterious disappearance of the original manuscript of MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.
So, if you are willing to suspend belief and return to the days of your youth, when the arch villains did battle against the white hats, vampires existed, and reading stories transported you into the worlds of their protagonists, then join Thursday and discover what's Next. This is about clever wordplay and literary allusions, about politics and religion, but primarily about having fun in a wonderful adventure with many interesting twists and turns. You will even be privy to an ingenious explanation of who really was responsible for Shakespeare's plays (a continual question for SO-27 operatives to ponder), as well as experience an hilarious production of RICHARD III. The more knowledge of literature you have, the more you will appreciate the truly remarkable job the author has done of weaving such illusions into the text (e.g., remember that James Boswell wrote the LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHSON), but even without much specific knowledge the author's Clif Notes are provided so that you can appreciate how Thursday's adventures changed the lives of Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre.
When I read the description of the series of which this book is the initial entry, I was not sure that the author would be able to keep my attention while enabling me to engage in the necessary suspension of belief, but he has created a storytelling methodology that fully engaged me. The brief introductory paragraph at the beginning of each chapter (excerpted from various narrative accounts concerning the proceedings), serve to very effectively both convey crucial background information and provide an air of authenticity. I strongly recommend that you read this book when you want to meet such interesting characters as Ms. Paige Turner and the almost immortalized fiend, Felix Tabularasa. The creativeness of Fforde's imagination rivals that of the extraordinary scifi writer Philip K. Dick, except that this is world of exciting adventures and happy endings (at least before the next assignment beckons to Thursday), rather than the stark and often depressing possibilities that Dick's imagination envisioned. I was also impressed with the ability of Fforde to subsequently answer questions which had been raised by certain elements of the narrative and to cleverly tie up several loose ends or unexplained happenings; of course, you have to accept the fantasy of the alternative universe which he creates, but there is internal consistency within the rules of that world.
I have chosen not to reveal too many details of the plot, both in order not to spoil it and also because a brief review could not do it justice. But I believe that you will enjoy entering the world of Thursday Next, and will soon find yourself LOST IN A GOOD BOOK (the sequel). And you will also probably fantasize about which novels you would like to enter and perhaps improve the plot, meet the characters, or experience the action if only you had the ability to engage in book jumping. But you'll have to read THE EYRE AFFAIR to learn how to accomplish that feat, I won't tell.
Tucker Andersen
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on April 19, 2004
Well, I did it again. I didn't get into "Star Trek" until "Star Trek III". The first Star Wars movie I saw was "Return of the Jedi", followed by "Empire Strikes Back". I read "Life, the Universe, and Everything" first in the Hitchhiker's Trilogy (of what, 5 books now?) I picked up "Lost in a Good Book" at the recommendation of a friend, even though I was unable to get "The Eyre Affair" at the same bookstore (it was showing in the database, but not on the shelves... oddly appropriate for the series).
What this reinforced was the following:
A) "Lost in a Good Book" was an _excellent_ novel.
B) "The Eyre Affair" is merely a very good one.
It seems that Jasper wasn't quite sure of the writing style he wanted to use in "The Eyre Affair", and while he doesn't do it often, there are switches to 3rd person viewpoints involving people not near the usual 1st person protagonist. These are somewhat jarring as I prefer a book to stay in the same voice throughout. The overall tone is a bit more serious also than his second book, and I found I much preferred the breezier style in "Lost in a Good Book".
Nevertheless, "The Eyre Affair" is a wonderfully fresh and unique style that isn't categorized easily. Alternate history, time travel, detective thriller, humor, romance elements, horror, are all present. The fun part of it all is that even someone who hasn't read the books/poetry referred to in the story can still somehow understand what the 'inside jokes' might be (warning, spoiler in the next part):
For instance, Thursday Next changes the ending of Jane Eyre by her actions within the book itself. Well... she changes it in _her_ world, with camps falling into "The change was for the better" or those who despise her because of it. In actuality, she changes it to match with our reality. Yet, even never having read Jane Eyre, I somehow got the impression that that's what happened.
Simply put, in spite of some growing pains for the series, this is still a quite fun novel which can be enjoyed on a variety of levels.
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on March 6, 2004
"The Eyre Affair" brings to life the dream of almost every avid reader, to step through the pages of their favorite novel and meet the characters. In this case, the book is "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte, thus the title. And the reader does, in fact, meet Mr. Rochester, Mrs. Fairfax, Bertha Mason Rochester, Grace Poole, and even Pilot the dog through the experience and eyes of our heroine Thursday Next, Special Operative in literary detection. Unfortunately we do not meet Ms. Eyre, as the novel is told in the first person and no one wants to distract her from her mission of forwarding the plot.
What world has the reader stepped into? Where exactly are we that such things are possible? Jasper Fforde's London of 1985 is familiar in many ways. Her citizens look much as they do now, although styles have a retro look. People watch TV, listen to their favorite music, go to work each day to pay the rent and they still fall in love...and out of it. However, the computer chip has not been invented nor has the jet engine, so people's eyes don't glaze over staring at computer monitors. They travel long distances by ship or dirigibles. The Crimean War, between England and Czarist Russia is in its 131st year - England's Viet Nam taken to greater depths...or heights. The Russian Revolution never happened, so no Cold War, Lenin, or Stalin...but serfs are still around, I guess. The nation's favorite pastime is, of all things, literature. These folks read big time! Many change their names to John Milton, Charles Dickens, George Gordon, Lord Byron, etc., and Shakespeare denialists abound. This is a time when people can literally get lost in a book...or poem. Wales is an independent country, The People's Republic of Wales and England is a police state.
Thursday Next, is a tough but tender lady with a dry, wry sense of humor, and a veteran of a very bloody Crimean campaign in which she lost her beloved brother. Her job as "operative grade I" for SO-27, the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network is to track down stolen manuscripts and spot forgeries. She is recruited by SpecOps to track down Acheron Hades, one of the world's most heinous criminals. He had been her professor at university and she had successfully avoided his numerous attempts at seduction, perhaps the only girl who got away. Thus Ms. Next is able to resist the effects of his hypnotic voice and persuasive abilities to this day. Hades has stolen a device that allows him to enter books and cause great mischief...perhaps irrevocable damage to great literature, like absconding with characters and altering plots forever. We all know by the title that Jane Eyre becomes a target. And the mystery and adventures commence.
I am not a fan of sci-fi, fantasy or alternate history, but this book is a blast, especially for those who love their lit. The jokes, puns, allusions are very clever and often made me laugh out loud. Fervent Baconians constantly feud with staunch Shakespeareans about who wrote the world's greatest plays. Shakespeare's Richard III plays every Friday night at a local theater, a la "The Rocky Horror Show" with audience participation. Thursday's dad, a rogue ChronoGuard, travels through time haphazardly to avoid capture but always visits his daughter, even if just for seconds.
Mr. Fforde's writes tight, skilled, imaginative prose. He has come up with a remarkable character in Ms. Next, and since this book has been destined to be part of a series, we will be reading more about her and her slightly mad adventures. I can't wait!
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