Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair (2001) (Hodder and Stoughton)
Jasper Fforde
Grade: A
Genre: the rag-bag of genres as described below
Source: own, World Book Night edition
Thursday Next: (1) The Eyre Affair, (2) Lost in a Good Book, (3) The Well of Lost Plots

The year is 1985, the Crimean War is still waging on, dodos are in fashion, the public have a fascination with all things literary, and characters from Great English works of literary fiction are in great peril …

Thursday Next is a Crimean War veteran and a member of Special Ops 27: Literary Detectives. Her speciality is Shakespeare and her idea of an exciting day at work would be apprehending a group of literary fraudsters. When a first-edition of Martin Chuzzlewit goes missing, Thursday is put on the case as she designed the security designed to protect the work in the first place. She’s on the trail of Acheron, her former English lecturer at Swindon and a man whose name her superiors don’t dare to even utter. It is said that he knows whenever his name is said, and that no bullet can stop him …

In her quest, Thursday is sent to the Republic of Wales, dangerous territory if there ever was any. Still, Acheron slips out of their fingers every time and it soon becomes clear that the harms done to Martin Chuzzlewit were only the beginning, and Acheron has much bigger fish in mind …

I LOVE The Eyre Affair. I first read it several years ago, and it was the book I received to give away for World Book Night 2013. I’ve never progressed beyond book 1 because I could just never find book 2, but TEA always worked fine as a standalone for me. Now, my appetite for more Thursday Next goodness has returned, and I’m desperately hungry for more.

I’m really fond of these alternate-world books, especially such a genre-mixer like this. I can’t pin one label onto TEA, but amongst the genres that occur to me are: futuristic; alternate-world; alternate-history, crime, funny, time travel and fantasy. There are copious elements of each, but not enough (in my view) such that it can be used to describe the book completely; it’s like Jasper Fforde couldn’t decide what genre to stick with, so just tried everything – I love it. I talked a little about genre-mixing in Etiquette for the End of the World and if you liked that, then this takes it to a whole new level.

This is unbelievably funny. Some events are unbelievably outrageous, yet fit for the simple reason that this isn’t your regular book, set on Earth as we know it. This is a special world, filled with special people and so patchwork cars bursting through the fabric of time itself barely warrants a blink.

Thursday can be a difficult woman to like. She’s held a grudge against the only man she’s ever loved for ten years, and while she has good reasons, it can be hard to reconcile for the majority of the book, because we don’t find out those reasons till the end. Her stubbornness can sometimes be interpreted as downright irrationality, but she wouldn’t be human if she weren’t flawed. Personally, I admire her strength and resolve as well as her quest for justice, but I can imagine that many might be put off by her personality.

I would love to live in this crazy, crazy world. Bibliophiles are basically handed their dream come true on a platter: a world where everyone is book-mad, and the heroine polices literary crime. It works because it’s so unique. I don’t find myself scoffing at the idea of people being able to waltz into books, or talking bookworms ready to belch out a thesaurus once given the right food.

This isn’t a romance novel, despite however much I wish it was, though it has romantic elements. They’re nowhere near as numerous or intense as I would like, but that’s what you get when a romance reader reads outside their genre. I’d like to see where the Thursday-Landen relationship develops and the ending of The Eyre Affair has been the main reason why I’ve always been satisfied by not carrying on with the series. I’m all for a happy-ever-after and more books means that the dynamic reached between our hero and heroine will inevitably be upset. With seven books in the series, that’s a lot of upsets.

If you want a book that is quirky and different that will blow your mind, The Eyre Affair is a good bet. I can almost guarantee that you'll never have come across a book like this in your reading career and regardless of whether or not you like the book, it's something that you just have to read for the sake of the experience. Who knows - you may just have discovered your new favourite author.

Image courtesy of Book Depository.

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