I really think that Jasper Fforde has forgotten more about English language and literature than most of us will ever know. The humor and wit in his books is awesome. I would love to do a Being John Malkovich in his brain, I can only imagine what goes on in there. Ok, enough of my fangirl gushing, but really, read something of his already!
I had previously read The Eyre Affair, and indeed the whole Thursday Next series, except the most recent release. I am re-reading the series to get a refresher before I dive into the latest book.
I believe that any book that makes you want to learn more, and can make you laugh out loud, is pretty much perfection. I just finished a re-read of Jane Eyre before starting into Thursday Next, and I am glad I did. Having those passages from Jane Eyre fresh in my mind and seeing how it is completely conceivable that Thursday Next could have been hiding out backstage, so to speak, was a lot of fun.
The Eyre Affair takes place in England in the 1980’s, but not our 1980’s. Thursday Next lives in an alternate version of history. The Crimean War is still going on, airships are the travel of choice, and cloned dodos are popular pets. Thursday works for the Special Operations unit in SO-27. In this alternate England, people take literature very seriously. Acolytes of poets Milton and Byron get into fights in the streets, and there are some serious debates about who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
Thursday gets called upon by a higher level Spec Ops unit to help them capture a most wanted criminal. Normally, Thursday is a desk jockey, but she is an ex-policewoman and a veteran of the Crimean War. She is also the only person they know of who has seen and can ID the man they are looking for. The operation goes very poorly, Thursday ends up taking a job back in her hometown of Swindon.
Thursday’s determination to track down the villain, Archeron Hades, leads her into the pages of Jane Eyre. Along the way we meet many characters, some of whom I think were named to facilitate a one-line joke at some point in the book. Thursday’s Dad is a time cop, who has apparently gone rogue and pops in from time to time to say hi, and check changes in the timeline. Thursday’s uncle is an absent-minded scientist, and her aunt becomes trapped in a poem. Thursday is also dealing with intrusions by the corporation, Goliath, they seem to control everything in England as a result of financing the rebuild after WWII.
The Eyre Affair is a wild ride, and the beginning of a series that only gets better. I will be the first to admit that sometimes I don’t feel smart enough, or well-read enough to get all the humor, but one of the beautiful things about these books is that it doesn’t matter. This story is great on multiple levels, it is a fun alternate history story, and I think the more of an Anglophile, or just lover of literature that you are, the more you get out of these books. If you’re nervous about jumping into Thursday Next, I would recommend starting with Jasper Fforde’s Nursery Crimes series: The Big Over Easy, and The Fourth Bear. Jack Spratt’s adventures have all the humor and wit, with more the more accessible references to nursery rhymes. Jasper Fforde also has a one-off book called Shades of Grey, which has an even stranger setting than Thursday Next, but not exactly alternate history.
I’ve already started on the second Thursday Next book, Lost in a Good Book. I’m going to give The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, 1 bookmark.