Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Eyre Affair

by Jasper Fforde

Started: 30 August 2007
Finished: 13 September 2007

If I was to give out awards for 'Wackiest Book I've read This Year', The Eyre Affair would get it, hands down. It's the most hard-to-classify book I've read in a long time. 'If ever?' she asks with a puzzling look on her face.

Part time-travel, part literature-lover-lore, part mystery, part sci-fi and part something else--too nebulous to define.

Some folks on my British Classics Book Group were talking about the series and warned me it was 'different' but they also said if you like Brit Lit, then you're sure to love it. I do and I did!

Don't let my reading dates (above) fool you. This book can be read in far less time. I've just had too much on my plate recently and have put this down when I wanted to pick it up. I am sure when I treat myself to my next Fforde 'sweetie'--as the English like to call them--I'll probably devour it in a two- or at most three-day stretch. And yes, I would classify the book as a candy--no real nutritional value, morally speaking, but very, very enjoyable. On the other hand, nothing objectionable or offensive either--rather old-fashioned in that respect.

So, now that I've thoroughly confused you, what is The Eyre Affair about?

Thursday Next, a Literary Detective, is the main character; she's 36 years old and works solving crimes involving Literature in 1980's England--but it is a very different country than we know or remember because all sorts of things we thought happened either haven't yet or might not due to all sort of time-travel complications. Yes, well I did try to warn you--weird and wacky! A couple of examples: the Crimean War is still going on, which if you remember from your history books should have ended almost 130 years earlier and Winston Churchill seems to have died -- unknown -- as a young boy. Time travel apparently can have disastrous results.

Thursday's father has a face that can stop a clock; no, he isn't ugly; he can literally stop Time. And he frequently does--to drop in on his daughter for a chat, pass on info or ask questions--often with quite humorous consequences.

Now if all this sounds improbable, try to imagine a world where people actually care enough about Literature to even have Literary Detectives in the first place! But they do. And the theft of the original Jane Eyre manuscript is enough to send the entire world running to read their copies of this book, because in this world people can enter books and characters can leave manuscripts. Thursday has her work cut out for her. Her adversaries have no less interesting names than Acheron Hades and Jack Schitt, if you'll forgive my French. However, on the side of good, Thursday is helped by no less than the formidable Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester, Esq., himself, Jane's employer and, well, I should say no more, in case you have not read Jane Eyre.

But then if you haven't read Jane Eyre in the first place, much of the subtle humor and even a good deal of the plot will be lost. Indeed, Mr. Fforde's appeal will be to a rather limited audience. However to those who love British Literature as much as yours truly, this was truly a gem in the rough.

The best website about the book is the one by the author himself. If you're going to read even one in the series, check it out!

Thanks folks at British Classics for the tip!


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