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11 February 2015

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is set in 1985 England -- but an alternate 1985. The Crimean War is still being fought. The Isle of Wight is French instead of English. Russia is still being led by a Czar (Romanov Alexei IV). Pet dodo birds are common thanks to home cloning kits and reverse extinction. Time travel is common. Shakespeare's Richard III has interactive performances a la Rocky Horror Picture Show (which I now desperately want to see). The Socialist Republic of Wales is a thing. The United Kingdom is not. 

Thursday Next is our main character and she works as an Inspector for the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network in London. They deal, obviously, with literary crimes -- illegal traders, copyright infringers, gangs stealing & selling first editions, counterfeit manuscripts. You know, the usual. Literary treasures are highly regarded and, as a result, guarded. The type of security you would expect at banks and the best museums were in place at homesteads of people like Jonathan Swift and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. In fact, Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit is the work in question when we first encounter Thursday at work. It's been stolen and even the Prime Minister is in a huff over it so soon other divisions are called in on the case and soon Thursday is working with a super secret Special Ops unit who believe they know who the culprit is -- and they believe that she can help catch him since he was a professor of hers years prior. The man is named Acheron Hades. (And, yes, he has a brother named Styx.)

Okay. Okay. The names are ... well ... whack. One of Thursday's London co-workers? Her name is Paige Turner. (Get it?) Some reviews I've read haven't been able to get over the names. I, however, read a whole lot of Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony and Terry Pratchett growing up. It almost feels like I already know these characters. Later on we'll also meet government henchman employee Jack Schitt and vampire/werewolf hunter Spike Stoker... among others.

I'm getting ahead of ourselves here. (I think Thursday's time-traveling father might be rubbing off on me.)

So, anyway, to pass the time during a stakeout of Styx Hades, Thursday's new temporary partnerish person, Tamworth, hands her a copy of Jane Eyre to pass the time.

Oh.Yeah. Alternate reality. Hrmph.

 Stuff happens. And more stuff. 

An awful lot of stuff, okay? 

And some of it is awful. Some of it not so much.

(I really rock at this whole "review writing thing," don't I?)

Thursday ends up transferring back to an office in her hometown where her mother, Aunt Polly, and Uncle Mycroft still reside. (Her father pops in from time to time -- stopping time whenever he does for everyone but who he's there to visit.) Uncle Mycroft is an inventor and has just developed some bookworms which are somehow the key to a portal allowing passage into a book. While Aunt Polly tests the Prose Portal by traveling into a poem by Wordsworth, Acheron Hades shows up ....

[insert creepy mad man suspense music here]

And so it goes. Acheron is mad evil differently moralled. He forces Uncle Mycroft into helping him break into texts (he has Aunt Polly hostage in his pocket on piece of paper, after all). Thursday (of course) has to try and save the day ... and her aunt and uncle ... and literature.

Piece of cake, right?

(Here's a hint: Nope.)

I can't say that you absolutely need to read this book. 

I can definitely see how it won't be for everyone's tastes. Even among my own friends I can think of a handful who just might not get it. I don't "get" a lot. It's okay. BUT if you do try it and you do get it and you do want to immediately start staging interactive Shakespearean RHPS-ish productions, feel free to hit me with book recommendations. Obviously, you rock (or we're both big ol' geeky dorks. Whatever.).

Oh, and when you do read it? Remember: even the smallest most inconsequential detail may be there for a reason.

One more really super duper important piece of advice concerning The Eyre Affair: read Jane Eyre first. At least watch the movie (preferably the one with Timothy Dalton as Mr Rochester). Knowing the story helps.

1 comment:

  1. I can't say I feel a desperate need to read this book :) Two more things about names you mention strike me though: Sherlock Holmes' brother is called Mycroft. And there is a classic novel entitled The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton... I've not read it but it's in my "to read" collection... :)