50th review – The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next 01) by Jasper Fforde

I’ve never ever imagined I would be able to write 5, let alone 50 reviews, but here you go! Thank you, my dear visitors, followers and friends for every encouraging word !

The readers of this blog have chosen The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde to be reviewed as the 50th book. I couldn’t agree more – I wished to read it ever since my dear friend Tracy had mentioned this series on her excellent blog Addicted to Books. Without further ado let me start this special review of mine.

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (February 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780142001806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001806

Genre sci fi, horror, detective, litpunk (with elements of steampunk), urban fantasy –  no kidding!

This book is about what can happen when your favorite book comes to life… literally. It is set in a surreal (even bordering steampunk) version of Great Britain, somewhere around 1985. The UK is a place where time travel is old news (done that, been there, got a t-shirt), you can clone a long-extinct animal pet of your choice (like a dodo) and corner Will-Speak machines will quote Shakespeare at you. What’s more, you are in literature fans’ paradise – reading is as natural as breathingliterary pilgrimages seemingly commonplace and proselytizing groups try to convert others to their belief that, say, Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays. It is only the beginning of funRussia never had a Soviet revolution, and is still run by the Tsarist royal family; England and Russia have been fighting the Crimean War for 131 years now, the entire thing turning into a Vietnam-like  mess that neither side can politically walk away from anymore. Oh, and the Republic of Wales is an independent country and has turned into a soviet state for a change.

Our main character, a woman called Thursday Next , is one of Crimea war veterans (her dad is into time travel thus the name). Currently she works for SpecOps (Special Operations) 27- the Literatec division in London. Officers from that division are like literature detectives, trying to catch those miscreants who dare to steal manuscripts, publish fake originals and generaly cheat faithful readers making money all the way.  When the original manuscript of Dickens’s  Martin Chuzzlewit vanishes, Thursday leads the investigation. The theft proves to be far more complicated than anybody could have predicted – it brings Thursday into another case involving her old Uni professor, Acheron Hades, now a master-mind criminal  and Goliath, a big evil corporation which in fact rules the whole country.

Hades’s plan is fairly simple: using the brilliant invention of Thursday’s uncle, Mycroft, called a Prose Portal, he can kidnap characters from manuscripts and hold them to ransom or even kill, changing the classic stories’ plotlines forever. Literature being as important as it is in this world, you can bet he can demand millions and they will be paid. When his Chuzzlewit  scenario doesn’t go quite as planned Hades steals the manuscript of Jane Eyre instead. It is serious – Jane Eyre happens to be one of Thursday’s favourite books; when she was a child she visited the plot once, meeting Rochester and Jane; then Rochester saved her life. Now the whole novel is being endangered by Hades who, you can be sure of it, will stop at nothing. In The Eyre Affair the plot of Jane Eyre is a bit different – at the end Jane goes with her cousin, St John Rivers, to India.  Everyone agrees it’s a disappointing ending, not least of all Rochester himself. Will Thursday be able to save her beloved characters from virtually indestructible Hades and greedy Goliath thugs? Will she be tempted to change the ending of her beloved book? Will her involvement influence her private and professional life?

What I liked:

This book provided me with the literary escape I needed – it really can be an awful lot of fun, not only for English lit geeks who cherish their classics.The central idea of ‘The Eyre Affair’, that the world and characters of fiction can cross over into the real world, and vice versa, has great potential. The plot is fun, adventurous and as fast-paced as I like. The world building is truly intelligent and creative and the main character – very likeable (sometimes reminding me of Bridget Jones). Not only her. With lines like “My name is Schitt. Jack Schitt.” you will love the baddies as well. By the way Jack Schitt appears quite a lot and I couldn’t help giggle every time I read his name. 

To tell you the truth the wry, intelligent sense of humour kept me smiling most of the time. There’s more than a hint of satire but I found it done with gentility most of the time . Even if I didn’t understand some of the references  I could still appreciate them.The People’s Republic of Wales? Richard III being staged like Rocky Horror, with the participation of audience? Surrealists rioting on the anniversary of their legalization? Visiting a vet with your own dodo, cloned using a do-it-yourself kit? a vampire called Stoker (yes, there are vampires and werewolves in it)?  Hilarious and very refreshing! Some of the epigraphs, starting every chapter, weren’t bad either!

Part of the allure of “The Eyre Affair”  is that Fforde asks the hard questions about literature and answers them in a funny but not entirely flippant way. Believe me or not but I waited for his explanation of the Shakespeare autorship problem (here I got a bit disappointed but still ) as impatiently as for the way Thursday would defeat Acheron and save her beloved Jane Eyre
What I didn’t like:
This book is absolutely packed with literary and historical references – it’s a warning, not a fault. I admit I felt a bit lost from time to time but I found out that The Eyre Affair works best if you just go with the flow and don’t try to figure out every tidbit presented in the background. Don’t worry too much – even us poor illiterate savages can enjoy it 🙂

The other thing is that time travel and book travel, as presented here, were a bit patchy business. I mean the book doesn’t really explore these complicated ideas deep enough, leaving some big logical gaps (in my opinion – too big ) to be filled by your imagination. Not to mention such a difficult problem as a black hole which was solved in a simply childish, highly unprobable way. 

Finally not all people will like this kind of humour. I suppose if you can tollerate Monty Python and Douglas Adams, the book will work fine for you.
Final verdict:
Book for book people who want some clever entertainment. Despite some faults I am very eager to read other parts of the series!

So often Mr Right turned out to be either Mr Liar, Mr. Drunk, or Mr. Already Married.”

“I’m not mad, I’m just… well, differently moraled, that’s all. (Acheron Hades)” 

“They had two chances- fat and slim.”

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10 Responses to 50th review – The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next 01) by Jasper Fforde

  1. Tracy says:

    I'm so glad you liked this book, anachronist. I agree about the time travel – time travel is always a very tricky deus ex machina – because if you can travel through time, you could fix anything, right? So there are always problems with it – you can't control precisely where you'll end up, or you have to watch out or you'll get captured by the Chronoguard, or there are Rules, which are unbreakable. And yes, those literary references just bombard you, but the more of the series you read, the more you absorb. I actually liked the second book, Lost in a Good Book, better than the original, and the third book, The Well of Lost Plots, is my favourite one of the lot.

  2. Blodeuedd says:

    I like silly and weird books so I did enjoy this one :DWohoo 50!!!

  3. anachronist says:

    I suppose when writers deal with time travel they take too much for granted and they realize only too late what a huge can of worms they happened to open. Perhaps our brain can't process all these "ifs" and "whens" involved.I am happy you liked my review Tracy.The rest of the series in now on my TBR list.

  4. anachronist says:

    Woohoo indeed Blodeuedd – I think you might enjoy this one as well, especially as there is a big fat HEA waiting at the end!

  5. Oh it has been a long time since I read this one. You reminded me why I liked it. Oh I need to get caught back up in this series. I read the second, but I don't remember if I read the 3rd. Oh, maybe I'll just start from the beginning. 🙂 Great review.

  6. OH! Im going to have to get my hand on this one.

  7. anachronist says:

    Melissa it's always better to start from the beginning, thanks for your comment!Brooke I think you might enjoy this one too!

  8. danya says:

    Thanks for commenting on my Top Ten Tuesday list! I remember enjoying the Eyre Affair as well, although I'm sure many of the literary references went right over my head. But the general premise of it is such a fun idea 🙂

  9. What a device! If anyone invents such a thing, I have dibs on Faramir. 🙂

  10. anachronist says:

    Danya you are welcome!The Red Witch I am pretty sure LOTR would be quite a crowded place, with all these ladies eager to see either Aragorn or Legolas or Faramir…

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