Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

I have to admit that I initially started reading this novel because I thought it was in some way connected to Mister Monday, by Garth Nix. I don’t know, I thought one or the other was a pseudonym or something… To be fair, with the main character of The Eyre Affair called Thursday Next and with the same ideas of breaking down barriers between literature and reality, they are kind of similar. Vaguely. Sort of. Anyway, I’m very glad I did choose this book, even if it was on false pretences.

It’s set in an alternative reality in which there are no computers, but where time travel is simply part of an annoying job for certain types of police. Literature forms the major part of popular culture, and we follow the heroine, Thursday, as she tries to foil the machinations of the literary terrorist, Hades Acheron.

For someone like me, a world in which literature is paramount and receives the celebrity status of our real-life bands or film stars is a bizarre but fantastic idea. Once you’re far enough into the novel to have got used to the alternative history aspects (for instance an ongoing English-Russian Crimean War or the Welsh Republic border skirmishes) it’s very engaging, although I’m on the fence about some of Fforde’s more tongue-in-cheek moments. While he is genuinely very funny – a corporation leader named Jack Schitt actually made me laugh quite loudly in public – aspects that are obviously throw-away jokes do break the fourth wall a bit.

While I personally found the romantic aspect of the ending unsatisfying, the parallels between Jane Eyre’s and Thursday Next’s love lives were drawn pretty deftly and kept subtle until the end. In general, I really enjoyed this novel – fast-paced action, witty dialogue and an amusing narrative voice kept me gripped throughout. I was happy to find out that it’s only the first of a seven-part series, and look forward to reading the rest!

Next up: The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

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