Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair is my very first Jasper Fforde novel and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised and suitably wowed.  In it, Fforde creates an alternate time to ours which, at first introduction, appears like ours except that there are small (and big) things that take this world into the realms of fantasy - or science fiction - depending upon how you look at it.

The time is 1985 in England - an England that is still at war in the Crimea and in which Wales is a republic.  There are time rippers, dodos have been brought back from extinction and a multinational corporation called Goliath seems to have its finger in every pie.  Society is virtually obssessed with literature and dead authors are regarded as uber celebrities.  The written word seems to rule in this time and prose and poetry is highly regarded and is considered the backbone of society.

Enter our heroine, Thursday Next, a Literatec (literary detective) working in SpecOps 27, who has been called in to investigate the theft of Dickens' manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit.  The suspect is a super-villain named Acheron Hades who appears to be invincible and destroys all in his path - except for Thursday, who knows how his mind works and manages to survive his initial attack.  

Throw into this mix Thursday's time-jumping Chronoguard father and her eccentric inventor uncle and we have a story that begins to take you into the fantastic.  Her uncle and aunt are kidnapped and literary characters start to disappear from important works of fiction.  Only Thursday has the intuition and determination to track down Hades.

The Jasper Fforde novels are very prominent in bookstores and libraries and the interesting blurb of the first book in the Thursday Next series ensured the book made it to my TBR pile, even if I had a few reservations about a world with dodos and Jane Eyre running around in it.  But these reservations were unfounded.  Fforde pulls this off in a masterly way and successfully creates a believable alternative world with wit, fast-paced action and lots of word play.  Devoted readers will love how he plays around with established cannons and eminent figures such as the Bard and there are puns and literary quips aplenty that will entertain and amuse.

Sweet little touches like keeping dodos as companion animals and having access to Will Speak machines - arcade-type dummies quoting Shakespeare when you insert a coin - just add to the colour of this world and make you smile.  I thoroughly recommend this book to any lover of literature who wants an entertaining, sometimes thrilling - sometimes fast-paced, witty read.



Diane said...

I just discovered your blog and wanted to say, it looks great. (I've never read anything by this author, but it sounds like a good book.

Rochester Reader said...

Hello Diane and Welcome!
Thank you for your compliment :-)
I would definately recommend this book. Other bloggers have advised that the sequels are even better than the first, so I am looking forward to reading the next one soon. He is such a popular author and now I know why.

fleurfisher said...

I had my doubts about thi, but isn't it wonderful?! It could have easily gone wrong, but fortunately Jasper Fforde had both the love and the intelligence to pull it off.

Rochester Reader said...

fleurfisher, you're absolutely right! It was a bit of a mammoth task to take on but Fforde seemed to do a very good job. Great imagination and a great writer.

Mae said...

I'm glad you liked this and spreading the love! This is one of my favourite books (doesn't hurt that Jane Eyre is my favourite favourite book) and Fforde has a very unique and witty imagination. I ask who doesn't want to be a literary detective and own a dodo after reading this.

Rochester Reader said...

Hello Mae and Welcome!
Thank you for visiting my blog :-)
I loved the way he described the behaviour of dodos... it seemed to fit the way a dodo would behave and they are portrayed as such warm, inquisitive creatures. I have to agree that, by the end of the book, I wouldn't mind living in that world... I could see the order in that chaos!

Rose said...

Great review - I didn't enjoy the book as much as you (it felt a bit gimmicky to me) but it is a fun and fast read, and so I might be tempted to get a sequel from the library if they really do keep getting better.

Cristina (Rochester Reader) said...

Rose: thanks for visiting and thanks for the compliment :-)
I'm hoping to read the sequel soon too... I hope you enjoy it.