on 27 August 2002
THe Eyre Affair was proclaimed by 'Time Out' as the birth of a cult. The other reviews of 'Lost In A Good Book' (LIAGB) that I've read have all come from people who had read that book first, and were part of the cult. I must confess that I was ignorant of 'The Erye Affair', had not been killing time waiting for a sequel, and indeed actually picked up the wrong book entirely by accident.
Having bought the wrong book, I found myself lost in a brilliant one. My tea went cold, my lava lamp melted, my boss sacked me for missing work, and my hamster paused on its wheel as it noticed a stillness come over my body as I surrendered myself to a new form of my own world. Indeed I appeared to have jumped into LIAGB in exactly the same way as the heroine, Thursday Next, is able to do.
If this makes not even remote sense then help is at hand. Read 'The Eyre Affair' first. Trying to enter the 'Nextian Universe' cold is a bit of a struggle unless your mind can take lots of weird stuff in quick order. To be honest I coped, but didn't really start to get the hang of Fforde's strange world until about 200 pages in, as most of the explanation that would make LIAGB a stand alone masterpiece is in its prequel.
This is no bad thing, as it forces you to buy both - and both are worth the investment. Having said this LIAGB is the better of the two, the characters have more complex back stories, and there is a freedom for the book to romp along that only comes with an established cast.
A cheap way of reviewing this book would be to say 'Dirk Gently with knobs on', but the treatment of this world is different, and Literature replaces Science, at least in terms of inspiraton. Even the technologies of this alternative view owe more to science fiction than to science fact.
The quality of the writing is never more apparent than when characters and set-pieces from other novels are allowed to do their own thing. Miss Havisham from 'Great Expectations' as a rally driver, anyone? Perhaps the best evidence of this is in the send up of Kafka's 'Trial', which carries the tragic absurdity of the original into a new, comic level.
In short this book is inventive and tricky. It is easy to call it 'Crime', but it's a detective story played for laughs: fast and loose with it's own genre and any other it dares to trample across. Not just a worthy sequel, but a book standing proud and tall on its prequel, this book is a must for anyone fancying something entirely different.
But read 'The Erye Affair' first, won't you?
on 27 October 2003
Lost in a Good Book is the next adventure in the saga of Thursday Next, intrepid literary detective. Fforde takes the reader on another exploration of great literature, but makes it accessible even to the readers who haven't really read any of them. This book is an excellent addition to the mythos. It's a fast-paced romp that will leave you smiling and intrigued at the same time.
Fforde takes the world that he created in The Eyre Affair and adds even more to it. In fact, he creates an entire fictional world beneath the "reality" that Thursday lives in. Characters from literature can travel to the real world, or to other books. An entire infrastructure of literary characters is charged with defending literature against evil-doers. The Jurisfiction organization, centered in the Great Library where every book (even books that only potentially existed) is housed, fights against everything from vicious creatures that eat vocabulary to Bowdlerisers, who travel through fiction trying to eliminate obscenity and profanity from it. In her travels, Thursday becomes the apprentice to Miss Havisham, from Great Expectations, a master book-jumper. All of this is in an attempt to learn how to get into "The Raven" and save her husband. Once again, I have to credit Fforde's imagination. There are so many cool concepts in this book that I won't give you any more. It would spoil some of the fun.
Also like the first book, this is a triumph of prose and imagery over character, as most of the characters don't have a lot of depth to them. They are mostly part of the joke, or part of the scenery. Thursday is one exception to this, and Miss Havisham is the other. Havisham is a wonderful character, taking what Dickens created and adding to it. It's very interesting to see Havisham interacting with Pip and Estella as part of the book, and then when the scenes switches to a new chapter and away from her, she becomes even more animated. These characters know that they are characters in a book, they speak their lines and do their bit, and then they go off to live their own life. Every chapter adds more and more to Fforde's world.
One way in which this is different from the first book, however, is that Fforde doesn't concentrate as much in the alternate reality that Thursday lives in. We get an update on how things are going (the Crimean War peace talks, for one thing), but for the most part, everything takes place either in the books themselves, or in the real world but with lots of literary characters bumbling about. For example, Havisham is a hoot when she gets behind the wheel of a car. If you can imagine an 18th century spinster with a lead foot, you will get the picture. It's hilarious to see, and to read about. I constantly found myself marveling at what Fforde was producing, and didn't notice that the characters were kind of plot devices.
However, once again, the writing is wonderful. Fforde has a very smooth style that almost feels literary. It's almost the perfect mix between classic literature and today's fiction. Part of that is helped by the other fictional characters being around (most of them being from classical literature anyway), but a lot of it is the prose itself. The plot is interesting in itself and there are some godawful puns (those are the best kind). Some of the events in the novel seem to come out of left field, but everything ultimately has a good reason for happening, which is nice. A couple of times I groaned at how something was resolved, thinking it looked too much like writer's fiat, but then something else happened that explained exactly why that resolution occurred. Considering how twisty the book can get at times, that's no mean feat.
I greatly enjoyed this novel, though not quite as much as the first. I'm not sure why that is, because it seems just as good as the first one. Maybe I would have liked a little more real-world action. In the first book, I reveled in the scenes like the Rocky Horror Picture Show-style rendition of Richard III. Those sorts of details were missing in this one (though the beginning, when Thursday goes on the talk show, is a complete scream). There were a couple of seemingly useless items. There's no reason that I can see for the mammoths to be around, other than as interesting scenery. In a book that's full of imagery, that's not usually a bad thing, but this time it seemed like they would have a purpose, and then they didn't.
Fforde has shown, yet again, that he is a master at this sort of thing. He uses wonderful language, interesting images, and a great plot. Don't pick up this book for the wonderful characters, though. Fforde concentrates more on making the characters do interesting things than in actually making them interesting themselves. Except for Thursday, of course. She is the ultimate, and I love her to death. You also don't have to be afraid of not having read classic fiction and thus not being able to understand the book. While I'm sure it would be enhanced if you are familiar with it, it's not a necessity to get most of the jokes. All in all, I really felt like I was Lost in a Good Book.
on 31 July 2004
After reading "The Eyre Affair", the first book in Fforde's "Thursday Next" series, I was delighted. I loved the characters, the premise of a different world where literature was such an encompassing passion, and the possibility some of the characters had of "jumping into" books, thus being able to interact with many personages from literature.
"The Eyre Affair" was witty, funny, easy to read, and enthralling: I could not have liked it more... But, as a result, I was somewhat afraid of reading its sequel, "Lost in a good book". I asked myself how on earth could Fforde write another book as good as the first one. I really couldn't imagine an answer, but thankfully my curiosity was stronger that my fear of finding the sequel not good enough.
"Lost in a good book" brings the same characters, but new situations, and developments that make the story richer. Spec-Ops 27 Thursday Next is now a celebrity, and she must deal with that, something that is quite difficult for her. As if that were not enough, the Goliath Corporation blackmails her into bringing back Mr. Schitt (trapped by Thursday in one of Poe's poems in "The Eyre Affair"). As she is indifferent to the Corporation's threats, and to the money it offers her, they eradicate her husband (at the age of two years) with the help of a corrupt Chronoguard, promising to bring him back once Schitt is returned. But how will Thursday do that, without the Prose Portal that previously helped her to jump into books?.
Thursday has more than enough problems in the "real world", but she discovers quite soon that that is not all. She is accused by Jurisfiction of a "fiction infraction", due to the fact that she accidentally changed the end of "Jane Eyre". Jurisfiction, as the fictional lawyer assigned to her explains, is the service ran "inside novels to maintain the integrity of popular fiction". Consequently, she will be prosecuted in Kafka's "The Trial". Sounds strange?. Stranger things will happen when Next becomes an apprentice to Miss Havisham (from "Great Expectations"), in order to become one of Jurisfiction's agents.
This review is already too long, and I haven't mentioned the difficulties surrounding the authentication of "Cardenio" (one of Shakespeare's lost plays), the visits to other books (for example Austen's "Sense and sensibility"), Pickwick's egg (her pet Dodo is a "she") or the fact that somebody is trying to kill Thursday through coincidences... Did I pointed out that Fforde goes on introducing literary devices that make the reader laugh?. I guess I will have to leave that, and many things more, for you to discover :)
On the whole, I can say that even if "Lost in a good book" is similar to "The Eyre Affair" in some aspects (characters, main premises), it continues to develop Fforde's world, and doesn't merely repeat the things that were already said in the first book. In my opinion, in this book we get to know more about Thursday and the people that surrounds her, but we also realize that there is much more to the fictional world that we had supposed. As a matter of fact, the "fictional" world and the "real" world are intrinsically connected, and Next is one of the links.
What can I say?. Read this book as soon as you can. You won't regret it, and you are likely to do the same thing that I am doing right now. That is to say, you will wait anxiously for the next book in the series, and in the meanwhile you will recommend "The Eyre Affair" and "Lost in a good book" to others, so that they will know what they were missing without being aware of it :)
LOST IN A GOOD BOOK may be a painful rite of passage for a linear thinker.
Here, in author Jasper Fforde's England of 1985, people keep dodo birds as pets, a special police unit drives stakes through vampires' hearts, Tunbridge Wells has been given over to Russia in war reparations, London to Sydney travel time is 40 minutes by Gravitube through the Earth's center, air travel is by lighter-than-air airship, cheese is contraband, there's a duty on custard, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis has been recreated from recovered DNA and now provides society with its minimum-wage untermenschen, time travel is a reality, and 249 wooly mammoths in nine herds migrate back and forth across Britain.
So little of this parallel universe makes sense that I at first doubted my ability to finish the book. But, intrepidly, I carried on.
The heroine of the story is Thursday Next, a Literary Detective in department 27 of SpecOps, the national law enforcement megaforce. The mission of SO-27, among other things, is to validate the authenticity of recently discovered works by dead authors. The title of the book refers to the ability of certain trained adepts to physically enter book plots in real time, much as Mary Poppins and her young charges were able to pop in and out of chalk pavement pictures in the film MARY POPPINS. This talent is so rare that, here, Next is coerced by a representative by the world's monolithic business corporation, Goliath, to rescue his unsavory half-brother previously marooned by Thursday within the pages of Poe's "The Raven" in the first book of the Next series, THE EYRE AFFAIR. In return, Goliath will restore Thursday's husband Landen, who has been eradicated. And, as if that wasn't enough of a bother, Thursday must also thwart the imminent destruction of all Life on Earth by strawberry flavored Dream Topping.
Perhaps you can see where a linear thinker might suffer a migraine.
The enjoyment of becoming lost in LOST IN A GOOD BOOK isn't related to a nail-biter plot because what plot it possesses isn't; the word "peripeteia" comes to mind. Rather, the joy comes from the expectation of reading what clever quirkiness the frisky imagination of Fforde cranks out - sort of a present-day version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Indeed, the Cheshire Cat is one of the book's characters. It's that imagination that compels me to award the novel five stars though it goes against my grain.
I'm not particularly driven to read THE EYRE AFFAIR, but I have ordered the next in the series, THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS. It will undoubtedly spend time in the waiting room with the twenty-some more linear works awaiting my attention until I get the urge to lose myself in a bit of benign madness.
on 8 July 2002
and she's as brilliant as she ever was in "The Eyre Affair." Fforde has managed to maintain the level of inventiveness and display of literary minutiae which made his first novel so enjoyable. Thursday's married life has barely started when Goliath are on her tail again. I read it in an afternoon because I couldn't bear to put it down and I will *never* look at Miss Havisham in the same light again. I cannot recommend this book enough!
on 5 July 2002
Wow! I've been waiting a year for this sequel and it was worth waiting for. Like The Eyre Affair, the plot is on the far side of fantastic and full of ludicrous jokes (like the cameo appearance by a Dyson vacuum cleaner). All the old characters (except some of the dead ones) return, along with several new ones like Thursday's Granny Next.
Lost in a Good Book has a more episodic feel than The Eyre Affair, especially at the end, but the writing has improved - this book flows and hangs together in a way that its forerunner didn't quite manage all the time. Having said that, read The Eyre Affair too, it's a good book and will provide some background for this one.
Like any good sequel this book follows up several things mentioned only in passing in the first book while continuing the story and giving enough information that people who haven't read the first book don't get completely confused (mildly confused is normal when reading Fforde). A decent knowledge of literature will help but isn't vital - just as long as you know that Shakespeare wrote plays.
Don't read it for the first time in public unless you like getting funny looks because you're laughing uncontrollably.
Now we have to wait another year for the next one.
on 25 May 2006
I got the first two books in the Thrsday Next series through a special deal from a mail-order book company and was soon hooked.
As I travel to work everyday on the bus for an hour or so, these books were the ideal read - not too heavy and just enough humour to pass the time. I finished the first two in about a week and went straight out and bought the other two in the series.
Lost in a good book is all about plucky Literary detective Thursday Next, her dodo Pickwick and the literary characters she meets whilst "book-jumping" a feat that only a select few "outlanders" (real, not fictional people) can do.
Thursday has to juggle her family life, her mother, her job, her book job in the literary world and everything else that life throws at her, and she does it all with a pinch of humour and a very readbale story. It was the sort of book that you just can't put down and want to keep reading......
on 2 July 2002
This is simply the best book I've read in a long time. Funny and really clever, I couldn't put it down. It's like no other book I've ever read, with time travel, and jumping in and out of books commonplace. It takes a while to adjust to the world that Thursday Next lives in, but it's a worthwhile adjustment. Although I haven't (yet!) read the Eyre Affair, I think it's probably better to read the two in order as it took me a while to understand just what was going on - am buying it tomorrow! Can't wait for the next installment!
on 15 March 2006
Take 2 for Thursday Next in Lost In A Good Book sees her starting in a happy place, Acheron Hades is gone – presumed pretty dead – and Thursday is married to her precious Landen. What's more she has skilfully left Jack Schitt abandoned in Poe’s “The Raven” – life is good.
Well, good I guess is relative…
Whilst appearing on the Adrian Lush show (by the sounds of it an other world Terry Wogan) she comes across Mr Schitt-Hawse, also a Goliath employee and the half brother of Jack. Now Mr SH is adamant that he wants Jack back to ensure that he serves justice for his crimes. Now Thursday’s views of anyone that works for Goliath are not the best but with anyone with any resemblance to the surname “Schitt” goes right to the bottom of the pile in terms of trust – the kinda guy that when you shake hands you count your fingers afterwards to make sure they are still there…
Thursday, however has more pressing problems. Landen has been eradicated, not murdered (although some including Emma Hamilton, nee Lady Nelson, would rather it be referred to that way) but eradicated. To the lay man this means going back in time to some indiscriminate moment and altering the future to ensure you don't exist – in this case knocking on a certain set of parents bedroom door at an inopportune moment…
Coupled with this Thursday has been informed by her renegade Chronoguard father that the world is going to end, in fact it is going to be turned into a pink gooey substance, but ended all the same. Can she stop the end of the world, rescue Landen and look after Pickwick and her new arrival?
Jasper Fforde has the most vivid imagination I have ever come across and the settings he creates are nothing short of miraculous. The way he can make you comprehend the oddity that are his settings is the true genius of the book; I mean to illustrate, try to imagine that you are able to jump into books and meet characters, now try and explain that to a family member in a way where they can completely follow what you are saying – not easy I imagine!
I don't believe you have to have read The Eyre Affair to read this but I would recommend it in the strongest way as it does aid your enjoyment and you will be able to see how the author has grown from that book to this. A strong recommendation for anyone that can suspend belief, even if only for a short while.
on 5 December 2003
In this fantastically entertaining sequel to The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next continues her job with SpecOps ensuring that order is maintained in the world of books. This is no ordinary work of fiction. The first thought I had while reading it, apart from “Man this is hilarious”, was how much it reminded me of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide series. But this goes oh so much further. No classic work of fiction is safe and any famous fictional character may be deputised and added to the story.
We’re talking about a parallel universe of incredible detail and vast imagination. Where dodos are pets, Tasmanian tigers are watchdogs and the annual mammoth migration is a major tourist attraction. Thursday Next is our protagonist and is able to read her way into books, yes that’s right, actually INTO the story itself. But she has made some enemies who are capable of doing some pretty despicable things to cultivate their acts of revenge.
This is a wild, hilarious ride in which anything is possible, there is always something happening (nothing is mentioned for no reason), and the fun is endless. From time travel to Gravitube rides to visits through the pages of Kafka and Dickens, even the possibility of the end of the world this book’s got it all.
I urge anyone who loves a good laugh and reads for the whimsical pleasure of transporting themselves via the written world to another time and place to get lost in this good book. You won’t regret it for a second.