“ Author: Jasper Fforde / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 19 July 2001 / Genre: Science Fiction / Subcategory: Science Fiction General / Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division / Title: The Eyre Affair / ISBN 13: 9780340733561 / ISBN 10: 0340733561 „
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Something along the lines of fate led me to read this book. I had just finished 'The Sirens of Titan' which had an introduction by Jasper Fforde, when someone in my book club brought along the Eyre affair as a possible monthly read. As it happens, it wasn't selected, but the idea of a book in which the lines between fact and fiction became blurred in an amusing way appealed. I read it. I liked it.
About the plot:
The setting is an alternative 1985. By and large the world is as we know it, with a few significant differences. To begin with, the Crimean war is still going on, which does allow for a small amount of social commentary on war and whether the lives lost are wasted or for a greater end. Extinct animals are back in existence due to an interesting reintroduction scheme, in particular dodos which seem to have almost replaced dogs in the public's hearts. Literature has an entirely different level of importance in people's lives, with literary crime a serious concern (fraud and theft of manuscripts in particular), and audience participation either an entertainment in itself or legally punishable.
Our hero, Thursday Next is a literary agent who deals with said literary crimes. Her career and life become inescapably interwoven with the theft of the Martin Chuzzlewit original manuscript. In trying to recapture the manuscript, she ends up in shoot-outs, car chases, and even manages to enter into Jane Eyre itself, which exists as a perpetual reality for the book's inhabitants. We have internal politics, a criminal mastermind, time travel, a love story, and a happy ending.
About the writing:
Mainly written in the first person, the narrative does occasionally drop into third person. Each chapter begins using a quote from an imaginary book which sets the scene for the following chapter. This does have a function as it helps to fill in any gaps in knowledge. Such gaps are also filled by segments written in the third person. Occasionally, these are justified by implying that the narrator finds out this information after the event and is helping the continuity. At other times, this makes the book inconsistent as these gaps could possibly have been filled another way. Such is the problem for any author wishing to cover the whole story from the point of view of all characters. The book is riddled with puns, which on the whole are slightly amusing, but are sometimes are so downright awful, it depends on your internal cheese monitor whether you can bear them e.g. Paige-turner, Jack Schitt. Overall the style is quite loose and amusing and written as a quirky and light-hearted sci-fi crime story. Character development is somewhat limited, but then this book never has any pretensions to that effect.
About the literature:
It would definitely help to know something about some classic authors and the texts discussed. That said it is by no means essential and can be enjoyed no matter what your reading background. It does have an ongoing reference about the true authorship of the Shakespeare plays, which in itself is quite amusing when you realise the depths some people in the book go to relive the books.
It most certainly isn't a classic, but I may well read one of the follow up books just because they are fun to read. Consequently, I would recommend it to others . By the way, the book that was chosen for my book club that month was The Outsider by Camus, and this was about as far removed from that as is imaginable - a good sandwich read between heavier books.
Dogs go 'woof', cows go 'moo' and dodos go... 'plock'!
This story is set in Britain in 1985 but there are differences - the Crimean War is still going on, Wales is a socialist republic and cloned dodos are kept as pets (they say 'plock' and are really cute). Most importantly books are revered. They are treated like great works of art or celebrities are in our world. Our heroine is Thursday Next, a LiteraTec who investigates manuscript thefts. In this story Jane Eyre has been kidnapped and Thursday has to get her back to Mr Rochester.
There are a lot of puns and literary references. If you enjoy clever word play this is the book for you. It is easy to read and funny. It made me laugh out loud quite a few times. I do think you probably need to know the story of 'Jane Eyre' to enjoy this book though (if you need to refresh your memory the BBC series starring Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson is very good).
Unfortunately, after really enjoying most of the book, the ending was a bit of a letdown. Without giving too much away, I couldn't understand why Thursday made the decision she did. There wasn't enough of a build up to it and it didn't seem properly explained, just sort of tacked on at the end. Perhaps it is explained more in the next book in the series?
This review was also posted on the Facebook application Visual Bookshelf.
This is Jasper Fforde's first novel, published in 2001, and it is a groundbreaking, superb book which is impossible to pin to any one genre.
Set in a parallel 1985 it follows a middle aged woman named Thursday Next (a name that is taken from Shakesperes Romeo and Juliet) who is a former police officer and veteran of the Crimean war which rather than finishing in 1856 is still going strong after over a century.
Thursday is now working as a government official literary detective in a world where books are big business (instead of jehovas witnesses they have Baconites who go door to door trying to convince people that Francis Bacon wrote Shakesperes plays).
Struggling to climb the career ladder she gets a boost when one of her former university teachers comes under suspicion of stealing the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit, and Thursday is required to identify him.
Life is never simple and what should have been a simple stakeout leads to Thursday getting shot. She is saved by a not so mysterious stranger in the form of Edward Rochester....
This book goes inside the world of books, and is a superb read.
It does help to have some knowledge of the classics, and a mind that can appreciate and understand wordplay, and this is perhaps why it is not as huge a sucsess as it really should be.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Paperback publication 2001
Thursday Next is a Literary Detective and a good one at that. In a world where literary crime is a major offence and time can be stopped, slowed down or changed by "revisionists" most things can happen. With the Crimean War ongoing and feral Dodo's in the parks, this is a very different world. Our heroine, Thursday, works in London rooting out fake Shakespeare texts and trying and failing to find a boyfriend who can live up to someone in her past. The novel begins with the theft of the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewhit with no one recorded on the CCTV and the beginnings of the pursuit of a man named Acheron Hades who used to be Thursday's lecturer.
Fforde takes us into a world which is very similar to ours but with big differences, however he creates this world with such ease and fills it with fascinating characters such as Colonel Next, Thursday's father, who can stop time but has been eradicated from existence after going rogue, Mycroft, Thursday's inventor uncle who manages to make the most amazing inventions but can occasionally get things a little muddled and literary characters who can leave their books and come into the "real" world.
Fforde has written a book that you will not want to put down. And in fact makes you want to go straight to the second book (Lost In A Good Book). So far there are five Thursday Next books, with a sixth due next year.
I was given this book as a birthday present and three days later I ordered the second one. I had never heard of Fforde before, but I am glad to have been introduced to his work. Not only are they good for a first reading, but the second time around you notice other things. These are good literary books which anyone who has a basic knowledge of books will enjoy, not least for the explanation of who wrote Shakespeare's plays.
I picked this book up recently as part of a special offer at Tesco I just wanted a random book to read on the train as I'd forgotten the one i was presently reading. I was the quirky cover that first attracted me but its the brilliant writing that's had me searching out the next books!
I've always being a bit of a book geek I loved the idea of being able to climb into books and be a part of what happening, the basic book plot involves a portal that can transport you into books and bad guy Acheron Hades uses this to do evil deeds. There is a romantic sub-plot(which didn't turn out the way i expected, always a sign of a good book) the names of all the characters are great Thursday Next (our heroine and daughter of a time traveler) Paige Tuner (a fellow Lit-Tech detective) and Landon Park-Laine.
As well as being laugh out loud funny the book is full of interesting little tidbits that will make you smile, you'll find out how the banana was invented; that worms can read and talk and Welsh deovlution.
Thursday Next has got a lot on her plate at the moment. For starters she's one of very few people in the world who would recognise Acheron Hades, the third most evil man in the world, and despite being a lowly LiteraTec, she's a tough woman, not afraid to get her hands dirty. Which is exactly what she's going to have to do if Hades doesn't stop kidnapping characters from fiction for ransom. In the meantime, if she can cope with time-stopping visits from her father, moving back to Swindon, the close attentions of the ice-cold Jack Schitt from the shadowy Goliath Corp and if she can convince the man she loves to marry her (having first convinced herself that she can marry him), then she might just be alright...
Making any sense yet? Well, surprisingly quickly, it does. Jasper Fforde has not taken us any further than a slightly alternate reality, where the Special Operations Network agents, or SpecOps, are graded from the top secret SO-1 all the way down to ranks such as SO-27's LiteraTecs, or literary detectives, whose job it is to investigate such matters as who really wrote Shakespeare's plays. (You might be surprised at the answer). Thursday Next is our narrator and guide through this world of politics and literature, and she's a likeable human one.
Possibly one of my favourite things about Thursday was how instantly I could get annoyed at her, and yet how charming I found her guts and intelligence. She's a normal woman, a normal person in fact, with foibles and charisma, and even when pining over the elusive Landen Parke-Laine, she does so without any emetic moments. (An aside, here, but don't you just love Fforde's names? And that's without even mentioning Millon de Floss. Ack, ack, ack). She's straight-talking and good at her job, but she has a lot of passion and pride and a few shadows hanging over her. And that's good enough for any main character.
Other characters who pop in and out of the fray are equally well written and preserved. Thursday's meandering time-travelling father is a scattily absorbing creation, and the personification of Edward Fairfax Rochester a faithful and warm one. My personal favourite was Acheron Hades, who in almost every particular is highly resonant of David Warner's supremely evil being in Time Bandits. A fierce intellect, a predilection towards elegance and style and manufacturing sidekicks and a seemingly invulnerable exterior all add up to a charming and respectable villain. The kind you can imagine curling their lip as they nonchalantly shoot their 42nd victim, and the kind that, for all their evil, you'd be sorry to see defeated.
A quote to illustrate my point:
"...all of you have been my faithful servants for many years, and although none of you possess a soul quite as squalid as mine, and the faces I see before me are both stupid and unappealing, I regard you all with no small measure of fondness."
(if that isn't pure Gilliam on paper, I don't know what is)
Fforde's character names I've mentioned briefly already, but they're worth noting again, because they are pretty funny. His choice of Martin Chuzzlewit as one of the targets of Hades' campaign highlights the fact that he has a pretty Dickensian approach to names as complementing personalities himself. Quite deliberately, quite amusingly.
Fforde's writing style is instantly engaging and free-flowing as well. Despite the numerous cultural references, a bit like Pratchett (who, on the cover, professes to be watching his back for Fforde) if you don't get all of it, it doesn't much matter; I certainly wasn't aware of any particularly esoteric references that were beyond me, but there might well have been. The point is, it's not important. This is not a highbrow tome to make you feel undereducated. But you do need to be book-minded, and you do need a familiarity with Jane Eyre. If you've not read it, not only will it entirely spoil the book for you, but the references to different possibly endings will tie you up in a confused knot. And yet this is very different from Pratchett because it has a decidedly more ridiculous, self-parodying vein, and it is set in this world, or at least a version of it.
The Eyre Affair is a little bit of everything, then, humour, detective story, parody and homage. And as such it's a delightfully silly pleasure to read. It's clever, but not to the point of alienation, and it's pacy enough that I read two thirds of it on a day off sick - it's not a long book at just under 400 pages and the chapters are structured bursts of blistering inanity, that often have cliffhangers. Each is prefaced by a quote from a book such as Thursday's autobiography, or Acheron's Degeneracy for Pleasure and Profit (which for some reason made me think of Toby Young - perhaps he really is the Diet Coke of Evil...?)
Fforde's website, with its infinite and bizarre links, www.thursdaynext.com makes it clear that this is a series of which the next has already been published (and is previewed, with a pair of hilarious print ads at the end of the Coronet paperback edition); it's really an extended crime caper by a man who loves his books. As if the tongue-in-cheek tone of the book were not clear enough, Fforde includes a link to parodies of his work.
All in all I'd say a pretty entertaining read then. Lack of breathtaking excellence prevents it from getting a full five stars (I save that for what I consider the truly exceptional) but the four it does get are fully merited. Written with clarity and good humour, and populated by the engaging, it's definitely a winner, even if it does get slightly tired towards the end.
I just wonder what would happen if someone used the Prose Portal on the original copy of this...
Paperback Coronet Books (www.madaboutbooks.com)
I’m always one to try out new authors, I love rooting through the books at Waterstones and reading the backs of all these new unknown authors – to me it’s the highlight of shopping with my girlfriend. Rarely have I picked up a book and instantly known that it was going to be a cracker, just from the description on the back. Nine times out of ten something will put me off, and even on that one occasion where I like the description I won’t think anything more of it. On reading the first few lines of this I was hooked. The Eyre Affair is a story set in an alternate world, a world where time travel is an everyday occurrence, a world where there are vampires and werewolves and a world where the characters in books are very much alive. Set in an alternate 1985 in England, the story follows the intrepid adventurer and dodo owning, Thursday Next. She is a member of Special Operations 27 or Literary Detectives as its more commonly known. There are 30 Spec op departments, with spec ops 1 being the most secret. Spec ops 11 are time travel and spec ops 19 are werewolves and Vampires. Most of the departments keep themselves to themselves, and most above spec ops 10 have no idea what those below actually do. Thursday’s job is a rather mundane part of spec ops – the tracking down of stolen and forged manuscripts. However in this world people take their literature very seriously – replacing Sport and TV with Shakespeare and Dickens, people even change their names to idolise their favourite author (there’s a side story about a group of people that have all changed their names to John Milton as they believe he actually wrote the all Shakespeare). However Thursdays world changes abruptly when a member of Spec ops 3 approaches her and asks her to joi n them for a short period to catch the worlds 3rd most dangerous criminal, Archeron Hades. From this point Jasper Fforde takes us on a fantasy ride of literature and art
. The Jokes in this book are fantastically clever, most of the character names a subtly funny with reference being made all the time to various Authors and the reason they came into being. There’s a Rocky Horror Esq. performance of Richard the third where the audience actually performs the production. Jasper Fforde has created a spectacular novel here, fantastic in every sense of the word. I have since read the follow up to this Lost in a Good Book which is just as good – if not better and look forward to what I hope will be a long and prosperous career as an author. Thoroughly recommended for people of all ages.