After years of hearing fellow book bloggers rave about The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and the Thursday Next books that follow it, I finally read the thing! Yay!
About the Book:
The Eyre Affair is a little hard to describe. It’s set around 1985 in what mostly resembles Great Britain. Certain key events in our own timeline have or have not occurred in the book’s, resulting in odd discrepancies. For instance, England and Russia are still fighting the Crimean War. Airship is a common form of transportation. Also, classical literature and its authors are treated the way we treat celebrities. And everybody has a theory about who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
Our heroine, Thursday Next, is a rather tough Special Operations agent in literary detection (with a resurrected pet dodo). The Goliath Corporation seems to have an unhealthy stranglehold on the doings of England’s government (as well as the best-named character in the whole book). Oh, and someone has begun dipping into classic works of literature and holding their key characters for ransom.
Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m not entirely sure what to make of The Eyre Affair. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it immensely. More that…I’m not really sure where to start.
How about this: Reading The Eyre Affair felt like begin handed a whole bunch of puzzle pieces from what are obviously very different puzzles. There are a few standard pieces are varying sizes. There’s a wooden one with teeth marks that clearly came from a child’s toy. There’s a piece from one of those three-dimensional puzzles. And just for kicks, there’s a piece from a floor puzzle that is bigger than all the other pieces combined. You can sit there for hours trying to make them fit together nicely, but it’s never going to happen. Luckily, they make a rather interesting collection just as they are. I mean, who says the pieces have to fit?
Yeah. The Eyre Affair is kind of like that.
Allow me to explain. And actually…if you aren’t big on spoilers, maybe just skip the part between the red lines. I’m really not sure how to discuss this book without dipping into the spoiler pool.
So, puzzle pieces. It felt a bit to me like Fforde wanted to have all these cool things in the book but wasn’t quite sure how they’d fit together…so he just made something up. There’s the ChronoGuard. There’s a touch of the supernatural, what with the werewolf and the one vampire incident and whatever is going on with Hades. There’s the whole Crimea situation and its politics, and the Goliath component. There’s Thursday’s love life. And then there’s my favorite part of the book: all the messing around with classic novels. I’m pretty sure the book would’ve worked with just one or two of the pieces and perhaps been more coherent as a whole. Together it was sort of like…well, like a bunch of mismatched puzzle pieces.
That being said, holy cow did I love the way fiction and “reality” blurred in the novel. Characters from classic literature getting held hostage? The plot line of Jane Eyre being permanently altered because some nutjob is running around inside the pages of the original manuscript wreaking havoc? Mr. Rochester showing Japanese tourists around Thornfield to make a little extra cash?? I’m practically rolling around on the floor in paroxysms of glee just thinking about all the amazing creativity happening in that particular aspect of the book.
My second favorite part had to be Thursday’s father and the alterations he seemed to be making to history. The bananas, in particular, cracked me up.
In the end, it was okay that the pieces didn’t really fit. First, it was Fforde’s first published book. Second, I enjoyed the parts I enjoyed enough that I was willing to overlook what didn’t quite make sense. I would really love to crawl inside Jasper Fforde’s head for an hour, just to see what goes on in there.
Most likely, I’ll continue with the series at some point. Perhaps in the near future, or perhaps not. We’ll see.
The Verdict: Enjoyable
If you are a fan of quirk, absurdity, and extreme cleverness, then I bet at the very least you’ll be entertained by The Eyre Affair. If any one of those rubs you the wrong way, though, maybe you’d better find something else to read. Shades of Grey, also by Jasper Fforde, is a bit more subtle but still clearly comes from the same fascinating mind.
Have you read The Eyre Affair? If so, did you get the puzzle pieces vibe? If not, have you read another book that didn’t quite seem to fit together?