on 20 September 2005
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 !.
on 18 March 2003
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.
on 2 September 2002
I thoroughly enjoyed this book with it's crazy mix of fiction, good guys chasing bad guys and quirky humour.
Thursday Next is a Literatec (or Literary detective) in a world where changes can be made to books if you can just get hold of the original manuscript and it is her job to stop to stop arch villain Acheron Hades from destroying Jane Eyre after he kidnaps Jane from the manuscript and alters all the copies.
If you enjoy classic fiction (especially Jane Eyre); Douglas Adams and Alice in Wonderland then you will probably enjoy this.
on 3 March 2006
Where were you in 1985? On the picket line with Arthur Scargill? Like me going to infants school? Not even born? Well wherever you were I some what suspect you weren't looking after your pet dodo - possible a version 1.8, or fighting the Russians in Crimea or even working in SpecOps, the mysterious government organisation split into a variety of departments.
I'm right aren't I? You weren't doing any of those things were you...
Well that is probably because you weren't in the version of 1985 that Thursday Next occupies where her father works for the time travelling ChronoGuards's and Thursday herself works in SO-27 - literary detective division, which as Thursday herself puts it is "way less glamorous than it sounds". Unlike most of her contemporaries though Thursday is not just a desk jockey, she has seen action in Crimea and carries a whole load of baggage around with her to prove it as a certain Landen can testify too...
However Thursday has slightly more pressing issues. Issues in the shape of world's 3rd most dangerous man - Acheron Hades. A man so dangerous that he cannot be caught on camera, is aware of a persons presence the second they mention his name and can bend the will of all those around him. In normal day to day activities Thursday would have little to do with such an arch villain but she has come across him before and knows what he looks like, not something that you would think would be a problem but remember he cannot be caught on camera...
When SO-5 come calling asking for Thursday's help she is both excited and concerned - she knows how dangerous Acheron can be - does she really want to go hunting for him? When Martin Chuzzlewit goes missing she realises she has to help...
I only read this book on the recommendation of a friend who is really taken with the series but when I next see him I will certainly be thanking him for putting me onto them - this really is fantastically good. It is certainly whimsical, off beat and down right bizarre at times but written with such an imagination that you are completely sucked in to the world that Jasper Fforde creates - you can feel a real affinity with the characters - even characters liberated from other stories!
This is a really promising start; I just hope the next books in the series can hold a candle to it.
on 17 November 2006
I first heard about Jasper Fforde through an article in The Sunday Telegraph, so I bought one of his books as a present for a friend. She absolutely loved it and raved about it for ages, so I had to borrow it from her, and I'm so glad I did.
The Eyre Affair is one of the most original books I have read, if not the most original. Fforde really excels at creating a skewed world where things are similar to the real world, but also completely and utterly different. Thursday Next is a Literary Detective who must defeat the evil Acheron Hades scheme to hold Britain to ransom for Jane Eyre, who he has kidnapped from her book. The book is very funny, combining high- and low-brow humour in a way reminiscent of Monty Python. It also helps to have just a little knowledge of English literature!
on 5 August 2006
At last, a readable, enjoyable, female detective!
It always annoys me that there aren't enough well written women detectives in fiction, so when I saw this one on offer, I figured, what the Hell, I've read worse books in my time, might as well give this a go. And boy and I glad I did!
Thursday Next is one of the most alive characters I've read in a long time. This representation of Rochester - as unexpected as it was - had me going back to a version of `Jane Eyre' that I brought years ago. So I checked the references in `The Eyre Affair' with `Jane Eyre' and straight away after read `Jane Eyre' for the fist time in my life - two good books for the price of one.
The story twists and turns, but never fails to amuse, the covert, and occasionally obvious, cross-references brought out some real laughs. I loved the idea of the Socialist Republic of Wales, being a conservative in Swansea this really appealed, and no, it doesn't always rain here.
So give it a try, pick up `The Eyre Affair', read and enjoy.
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.
on 29 November 2001
Anyone with a love of words, books and literature--and who has a sense of humour--should love this novel. The word-play alone kept me well amused for the length of the story. Trying to categorise the type of story is difficult. It's sci-fi, but not so. Perhaps more a fantasy/reality mix that Phillip Pullman might recognise from his Dark Materials trilogy. I hope the machine central to the story is never built: wouldn't do to let Hannibal Lecter out on the world!
Despite a slight first-novelish woodenness to the pace of the story I'm greatly looking forward to the Next instalment (pun intended but you'll have to read the book to find out why).
on 31 July 2001
I loved this book. I lost sleep in order to read it (probably my ultimate accolade for a book). From the first page it all hangs together, despite the fact the alternate 1985 it's set in is so different that you can't take anything for granted. You just have to run with the blank bits in the world view until they get filled in (they do, eventually). The idea of a world where literature is popular culture just appealed to me, finally a book that rewards you for having read some of the classics (I think you'd still enjoy it without that though).
And a heroine who never once worries about her weight.
Its got it all, plot, characters (I'm still not sure how someone with as few appearances an Landon can come across so strongly as a character), jokes (possibly you need a slightly odd sense of humour) and two happy endings. If you need down to earth reality where you know exactly where you stand, this probably isn't the book for you. If you're happy to let reality look after itself for a couple of hours, you should like it.
on 9 October 2001
Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is a quandary of contemporary fiction. It could be as soon as classified as a comic fantasy as a straight-laced, hardboiled thriller, because it bounces back from the realm of crime fiction, to fairy tale, to sf, with little ado about nothing.
It follows the exploits of Fforde's protagonist Thursday Next, a literary detective working in the SpecOps LiteraTec conglomeration of town Swindon. Thursday arrives in Swindon to capture the fiendish megalomaniac Acheron Hades, who is intent upon stereotypical world domination. Acheron, accompanied by Dr Müller, Mr Hobbes, Mr Delamere, and clones of his most respected associate Felix Tabularasa plan to kidnap characters from works of fiction and hold them for ransom.
It is the responsibility of LiteraTec(s) to ensure all works of literature suffer little, and so Thursday must apprehend Acheron and his numerous hired guns before the entire divined plan gets out of hand. In the meanwhile, Thursday has to deal with the her stolen uncle and aunt, the proceeding Crimean war, the pacification of omnipotent Goliath Corporation employee Jack Schitt, keeping her job, attempt to prevent her life-long beau from marrying, battle some reticent vampires, discover who is responsible for writing the plays of Shakespeare, and find time to manage walking her pet dodo Pickwick around the park.
Jasper Fforde's style is refreshingly eccentric. The Eyre Affair is thoroughly well researched, and Fforde's warped talent at invention remains strong throughout the novel. Thursday Next is a charismatic character, and Fforde handles her misdemeanors and idiosyncrasies with consistency. What is most catching, however, is the fact that Jasper Fforde has managed to write something without genre, or imitation.
The Eyre Affair is a quirky, winsome and original book, full of delirious creativity-the inventor of the banana, holes in time/space, a time-travelling father, talking bookworms, re-engineered neanderthals, the Cheshire cat, Edward Rochester-and some reasonably good jokes. Indeed, Jasper Fforde has initiated a sequence of novels which, in the future, might prove brilliant in their conception.