Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair

Written by: Jasper Fforde

Published in: 2001

Synopsis: There is another 1985, where London's criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave's Mr Big.

Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn't easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare's plays.

Challenges: Action/Adventure for Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge

I picked up this book before heading off on my beach holiday because it seemed like the ideal beach read - light, fun, and a little bit clever. It was everything I had hoped it'd be and I had a great time reading Thursday Next's adventure as I sat on the beach after a swim. Sorry, have I completely angered all of you suffering through dreary winters at the moment? It wasn't my intention, I SWEAR!

So if you're like me and have either never heard of this book or avoided it then here's what you need to know. Thursday Next works as a LiteraTec in the Special Ops - she's tasked with hunting down the guys and gals who have taken to stealing, forging or destroying literature - a crime that seems to be more rampant than any other. She has a pet dodo (cloning is big), an upsetting ex, a time travelling dad on the run, a love of Jane Eyre and a hatred for England's role in the 130 year Crimean War.  After a disastrous stake-out on an old college lecturer turned villain (Acheron Hades) ends with most of her team dead and she's visited by herself in a hospital, Thursday decides to return to her home town of Swindon.

It's back in Swindon that everything ramps up to 11. Far from being the quiet home she remembers, Thursday finds herself squared off against Hades again, only this time he's managed to steal a manuscript of Jane Eyre and he's threatening to erase the lead characters if his demands aren't met. With her LiteraTec team mates (who are used to much quieter existences), Thursday struggles to keep up with Hades and maybe even get a step ahead. Of course, that isn't easy when Hades is...well, you never really know what he is. He's able to detect when people use his name, he can walk past video cameras without being seen and bullets don't hurt him...so he might be Voldemort, or he might be anything really. Though this world is very different to our own, the exact parameters are never actually set. We know there are vampires and werewolves (they're very briefly mentioned) but does magic? Is that what Hades is? Magic? Or is he a god? A demon? A very good criminal? You never really know, and it never really bugged me, except when it did. I mean, in Harry Potter you know why Voldemort is invincible - he's an evil ass wizard who played with some black magic, but Hades is only ever explained as a man who really, really enjoys being bad and can also do a bunch of crazy magical things for some reason.

And that right there is my one real annoyance with the novel. Fforde paints himself out of any corner he finds himself in with a neat little flourish of "this is an alternate England and things are different" while not really saying why certain things happen in particular ways. It doesn't quite go deus ex machina but there are several moments of father ex machina and even Rochester ex machina. It's a fun book and I was more invested in keeping an eye out for the literary hints and clues (and there are hundreds!), but it's a weakness of the author and it may harm the potential of the rest of the books in the series (assuming that doesn't get better with practice). The only other annoyance is the romance plot, it's mental how bad it is. I outwardly groaned in the final few chapters of the book and it was almost, almost, bad enough for me to dismiss the book completely. I mean, after setting Thursday up as this independent and strong female (kinda) who has been haunted by a past relationship for over ten years I was hoping Thursday might learn something and use that to her benefit, rather than just predicably do what was set out from page one. But I have issues with relationships in any book that's supposed to be about a strong female character, especially when that book skates pretty close to failing the bechdel test (and in my opinion does fail).

But complaints aside, this was a fun book. I enjoyed picking up on the literary hints (mostly in the names) and the inclusion of weird little sub-plots about door-to-door Baconians, art terrorists and French revisionists who are playing with time and history. The Jane Eyre side of the story I can't really comment on since I haven't read Jane Eyre, but I liked way Fforde created the world inside the book which is very aware that it's a world that only exists in a book. It's a brilliant concept, it just isn't always executed as well as it should have been - but it performed more than well enough for me to be interested in seeing where the rest of the series heads - even if it means dealing with the whole relationship debacle again.


  1. I read this years ago and remember not particularly enjoying it, but I feel like I should give it another go.

  2. "Rochester ex machina" just made me snort coffee. Well done! I remember really enjoying this book but I've not read any Thursday Next novels in years. I think my favev was The Well of Lost PLots.

    But where are you vacationing at the beach? Are you in Australia or did you go abroad? If the former, please don't die from sharks or box jellies, okay? (or anything else at the beach either, but I'm scared of those two things in particular). Where are you and can you show us pictures? PLEASE?

    1. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week!

      I'm going to head to the library and see whether I can find a copy of the next book - I'll need a series to take over from HP when the readalong ends.

      I just went up the cost from me to Noosa. I didn't die (yay!) or see anything dangerous. Although I did do upright paddle boarding and nearly died from muscle pain the next day.

      I only took a couple of pictures, they're on my instagram (http://instagram.com/kleemurphy) - including one where I take a picture of the beach signs warning swimmers about jellyfish and other dangerous Australian wildlife!

  3. Hmm, interesting. I know people who adore these books but I've never tried them, though I've often been tempted. I think people love the fact that they're supposed to be very in-jokey about literature, which is funny if you've read the book in question but not so much if you haven't.

    1. Definitely very in-jokey but I haven't read Jane Eyre and did ok in this one. Although, I guess I have seen the BBC version so I have a basic understanding of what happens.

  4. I love the Thursday Next books :-) This one was probably my least favorite - the next two are a lot better. I adore the whole wonky alternate world that Fforde sets up, I should really read the 4th one soon.

    1. How many are there all up?

      I really liked it, but I think the next one at least will be a library loan - until I know for sure I want to commit.

  5. 1) I am weeping because it's literally been about 1 degree C here today and I WALKED TO WORK IN IT. Hmph.


    3) I have to read this eventually because I own it and also Alley will be sad if I don't, but I'm pretty disappointed that it kind of sort of doesn't pass the Bechdel test... Dude, you can't just have one lady character and like, that's IT.

    4) I don't really have enough points to have made this a numbered list... Oh well!

    1. 1) It is so flipping hot today that I feel like I might melt into a puddle, so I'm feeling of myself and my beach holiday comment. WHY DON'T I HAVE A POOL AND/OR AIR-CONDITIONING. Weather man, it's the worst.

      2. I KNOW. I have such an issue with Jane Austen and with Wuthering Heights that I've basically avoided all lady authors from that era. But you'll be happy to hear that after I finished this book I downloaded the ebook (because it was free!!) and I will eventually get to it. Maybe.

      3. I mean, it doesn't really fail, or I guess people could argue it passes, but it's close. Besides Thursday there are maybe two or three female characters who have names (one is her mum, the other is the receptionist at the hotel she's staying at) and 90% of their conversations are about Thursday and her ex. Ugh.

      4. I love numbered lists! Always comment like this!

  6. Tricky ricky. I really want to read this, and I've heard the series gets much better as the books go on. Glad this one's fun, despite its annoying bits!

    Ah, beach reading (please read in Envy Font). I hear it is outrageously hot in Australia right now. Like, upsettingly hot. I hope you have a large, floppy hat to combat it.

    1. Definitely fun despite the annoyances and I'm excited to read more, although I have no idea when that'll happen.

      It. Is. So. Hot. I. Hate. My. Life.

      I am a transitional season person, autumn and spring are the bomb-diggity. Summer is gross, unless you have a pool or beach within jumping distance. Yet somehow I'm still based in the hottest state in a hot continent. Gross.

  7. I don't know how I missed commenting on this but better late than never. Also the whole romance thing (and the series overall) gets way better. I promise. And then there's the whole spin off series The Nursery Crimes.

    1. I'm super excited to hear the relationship gets better, because that's definitely what's been holding me back from buying/borrowing the rest.

      And I haven't heard of The Nursery Crimes, are there characters in it I would know or should you read the Thursday Nexttexts first?

    2. You don't need to read the Thursday Next series to appreciate the Nursery Crime books. The series is a spin-off from the second Thursday book, but it's like Frasier to Cheers. You don't actually have to know any Cheers to watch Frasier.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...