I picked up a copy of The Eyre Affair after I read a review. I found the premis intriguing and thought, if it works, could be a fun read. And so it was. Before I finished this book, I bought the next, so I could carry on the saga as soon as I'd finished.
Many others have already said it; this is neither one genre or another, and a nightmare to try and describe, (and fantasy is not my genre at all) as there's a bit of everything in here. But none crowd each other or fail to gel - Crime, fantasy, touch of low tech sci-fi, vampires, love story, cheesy villians (Acheron is only the 3rd most evil being on the planet) and low brow in-jokes of high brow literature classics.
Now, reading it like that, many will say these things can't work together. Jasper Fforde, on his website (which displays the cult the author has built with just two books) tells the story of the 76 rejections, before a publisher took a punt; he said no agent or publisher ever got beyond the synopsis, as soon as he was read, it started to happen for him.
He has also trodden carefully in Jane Eyre territory. Obviously fond of the book, so couldn't bring himself to give her much dialogue. However, while Jane is off narrating her book (Jane Eyre is written in the first person, as is his book) the resulting 'downtime' for the off stage characters is used a lot and provides much of the fun of this book.
On the writing side, his use of adverbs in dialogue is a little annoying. When the meaning and tone of speech is quite clear, it seems unneccesary - but plenty of writers do overuse them, so that's probably just one of my quirks. I also thought his general description of place was a little thin. I didn't visualise a number of the settings very well. That could be me too, but none of it detracts from the enjoyable read.