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 !.