21 April 2010

The Eyre Affair

Imagine the year 1985 in a world where the Crimean War still rages on, time travel is possible, book worms exist (Get it? Get it?), and the British public can't get enough of literature and art. Rabid Baconians stalk the street, proselytizing that Francis Bacon wrote the amazing plays attributed to Shakespeare; militant surrealists are murdered by rogue impressionists on the streets of London; and the novel Jane Eyre ends with Jane marrying that twit cousin of hers and leaving Mr. Rochester to a sad life all alone. (How dare she! Poor lonely Eddie...) In this chaotic world, a market exists for bootlegged manuscripts of classic novels, which is exactly what SpecOp agent Thursday Next battles on a day-to-day basis. The brainy but troubled Next is used to hunting down forged copies of Johnson and Austen. What she is not used to is maniacal criminals like Acheron Hades entering into books to kidnap and murder beloved literary characters. When Hades kidnaps Jane, it is up to Thursday, her partner, and Mr. Rochester himself to rescue Jane and make the world safe for classic literary characters everywhere.

My coworker Darcie recommended this delightful book--The Eyre Affair--to me; when I hinted at reviewing this book last week, Serena not only correctly guessed the title, she also recommended the book as well. When one reader with great taste in books suggests a book to me, I always get excited. When two readers with great taste in books suggest a book to me, I cannot resist. Thank you both so much! I loved this book and can't wait to read the rest of this series.

One reason I loved this book was the pithy British sense of humor that author Jasper Fforde brings. His witty style and outrageous plots remind me of some weird fusion of Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, and Lynne Truss. (It also reminds me of my beloved TV show Pushing Daisies. It has the same darkly funny mix of humor and escapist fantasy. Random Zella tangent: I will never, ever forgive ABC for cancelling Pushing Daisies. If ABC is reading this: I have not forgotten that retaliation riot I threatened. Consider yourself warned.) I am especially impressed with the skill that Fforde handles a plot that could very easily be dismissed as too silly. Instead, he crafts a gripping thriller and a sharply humorous alternative universe that is not so very different from our own, yet is worlds away, in a good way. The characters are likeable, quirky, and complex, especially Thursday, who is a truly wonderful heroine. She's neither a pathetic damsel in distress nor an over-the-top action heroine stereotype, both of which I despise in fiction. I also enjoyed the twisting plot that features elements of several genres. Sci fi, fantasy, mystery, alternative history, and humor fans will all find something to love here. Fforde puts clever twists on timeworn cliches from each genre, which helps add to the inventive tone.

However, the real draw will be for those who love classic literature. That's not really a prerequisite to reading and enjoying this book--it certainly stands alone--but this book will definitely be more appealing to those who have read and loved Jane Eyre and those who recognize all of the literary allusions that Fforde inserts within the text. (My favorite is Thursday's Uncle Mycroft. I named my laptop after Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, a couple of years ago. I had a moment of extreme nerdy happiness when I read Mycroft's name in this book..)

If you're looking for a light-hearted, clever, and highly original read, of either the spec fic or literary variety, try The Eyre Affair. Jasper Fforde is a talented writer with a highly original outlook on fiction. Beware, though: You may find yourself scrambling to find his other books, just like Darcie, Serena, and myself.


Next Week: Um, I have no idea. Maybe some Cormac McCarthy. Or a YA thriller set in World War II. Or Treasure Island. I have no earthly idea. Don't look at me! *hides in corner and cries*


  1. I've read Eyre Affair, I enjoyed the basic plot. But I've never read the rest of the series because of the language. The puns on crass language to make names bothered me. I like Thursday Next, but I don't like the author's casual use of foul language.

    Major turn off, and the main reason I won't recommend it to friends all rolled into one.

  2. Liana, I can see where some people could find that offensive. It never bothered me, and to be honest, it never crossed my mind when I was writing this review, but I can certainly understand where you're coming from. :)

    Thanks so much for commenting! :)

  3. I've been wanting to read this book for years but have never been able to find it (which is super weird because its on the Angus and Robertson top 100 book list, so you'd expect me to at least be able to find it at an A&R). And now mum has put a ban on me from buying more books (she called me a hoarder).
    I guess I'll have to check out or small town library again. Wish me luck.

  4. Hooray! I was waiting for this review :D. I LOVED the Baconians. I think my favorite part was when she and Landon (Landen?) saw Richard III. "When is the winter of our discontent?" "Now is the winter of our discontent." I really want to see a Shakespeare play performed to an audience like this.
    I just finished the sequel, Lost in a Good Book!

  5. Penguins, Gah! My family thinks I am a hoarder, too. (I am just providing the books with a safe home...) Is there any way you can have your library reserve it from another library? Here in the US, we have the ILL system, in which we can hold books from other libraries. Maybe Australia has something similar? *fingers crossed* When you read it, let me know what you think! :)

    Serena, I loved the Baconians, too! The door-to-door conversion attempts had me howling with laughter. I also forgot to mention how much I adored Thursday's pet Dodo named Pickwick. :D This kind of a Shakespeare play would be awesome! Maybe we can find a way to travel into this book and go to one... :D I ordered Lost in a Good Book and it just came in. Thanks again for the recommendation! :)

  6. Yeah, I can get them to reserve books from the libraries in my region but they're all pretty small libraries.
    Looking up the catalogue online now...

    WOW! I found TWO copies! Awesomesausepan!

  7. Yayayayayayay! Tell me what you think when you read it! :D

  8. Zella, I was in Goodwill the other day, and I saw a certain book you reviewed not too long ago for only $1. Take a wild guess which?
    I do intend on reviewing it :D
    Also, brilliant work with your reviews, please keep at it. As they keep coming, I'll be saving them to my Palm so that when I'm out I can find books that might be of interest.
    Thank you!

  9. Ooooh, Jourdie, You have me good and intrigued! Is it Animal Farm or Of Mice and Men, maybe?

    Awww Thanks you, Jourdie. I am glad you enjoy the reviews. That Palm idea is pretty cool! :)

  10. Sounds like a really, really cool book, Zella. Anything with elements of Terry Pratchett AND Monty Python is cool with me. I will try and read it if I get the chance.

    Oh, by the way, Zella, I tagged you (TAG! I hope you haven't been tagged already) check my blog for further details.

  11. Sorry I only just commented on this! This book sounds WAY too interesting. I am going on my library's site right NOW!

  12. Spammy, Hehe Yes, anything with Pratchett and Monty elements grabs my attention, too. I think you'll enjoy the humor. Yay for tag! *scurries off to find victims* :D

    Scott, I think you'll really like this book. Does your library have it? *fingers crossed* :D