Friday, November 16, 2012

A World of Pure Creation: A Book Review on "The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde

In an alternate version of 1985 Great Britain, Thursday Next is working as a literary detective with The Special Operations Network. When she's approached with the opportunity to investigate the theft of the original manuscript of Charles Dickens' "Martin Chuzzlewit", she learns that the thief at large, a man named Acheron Hades, can manipulate people inside their own minds, change his appearance at will and walk around unnoticed by video cameras. Thursday realizes her importance in this case lies with the fact that as a former student of Hades when the man worked at her University, she is one of the few left who could positively identify the culprit. But Hades is up to no amount of good and the web of deceit encompasses more than anyone realizes. It's up to Thursday Next to pursue Hades at all costs, especially when the man manages to steal Jane Eyre from the pages of her own story, and Thursday won't stop until everything has been put to right at Thornfield once again.

Okay. I read this book a LONG time ago. There, I said it. After a recent excursion to my local bookstore led to my acquiring The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to go back and reread The Eyre Affair, the first book I'd ever read by Fforde. And wow, it is still as absorbing and impressive as it was when I first read it a good number of years ago. So, naturally I suppose, I put The Last Dragonslayer down and immersed myself in the world of Thursday Next. Then for good measure, I pulled out the rest of the books in this series, which currently amounts to six books including this one, and I have plans to read them through again over the holiday with turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie at my side. And it will be a very grand time, indeed.

But back to the review, the world that Fforde created in this book just, well, astounds me, really. If I lived in this alternate version of 1985, I guarantee you that I would have made it my mission to become a literary detective. I would love to live in a world where literature is taken so very seriously. In this book, questions such as "Who really wrote the famous Shakespeare plays?" are discussed at great lengths with some people forming groups according the choice of writer they support. It's all so intriguing and it makes my brain very happy to read about this world. Add to the book the fact that Thursday keeps a dodo as a pet AND her father is a rogue member of the ChronoGuard (who do as their title suggests, time travel) AND she's hellbent on solving the mystery of Acheron Hades and his master plan involving kidnapping characters from original manuscripts, and you've got one impressive book in your hands.

In terms of writing, Fforde provides a strong lead heroine with the perfect straightforward, serious demeanor mixed with a sarcastic wit that makes Thursday a woman to root for. Very strong female leads kick ass and Thursday does this, quite literally on multiple occasions. Within the first few chapters alone she's involved in a gunfight with our lead antagonist and her quick thinking and stalwart courage are enough to ensure that readers stick with her to end of this book and beyond. She has a chip on her shoulder, with various reasons as to the cause of it, but her demeanor never changes. She always presents herself as if everything is normal; she's used to it. But it's the inner workings that make Thursday more than just some average detective. She has heart, she has pain and better yet, she's extremely intelligent and resourceful, inspiring not only her coworkers to trust her but also inspiring us readers out here in this world to believe in her, as well. Brava, Miss Next; extremely well done.

There is a LONG list of characters to supplement this story who range from the diabolical Hades to Thursday's trustworthy coworkers Bowden Cable and Victor Analogy, along with the dubious but quite aptly named Jack Schitt, a man who works for the Goliath Corporation which provides funds for a war that has lasted in this world for over a hundred years. Then you have characters like Thursday's uncle Mycroft Next, an incredible inventor, Polly and Wednesday Next, Thursday's aunt and mother respectively, and the book ends up balanced between family and war with Thursday in the middle attempting to keep her family safe while accomplishing a respectable outcome for her job as a detective. There are no limits to the extent of this novel. I especially love the twist of adding the use of Jane Eyre, both plot and characters, to this book as I am a big fan of the Bront√ęs novels.

Anything more given on this book will just spoil the fun. Suffice to say that Hades acquires a tool that allows him to jump into books and he uses said tool to kidnap important literary characters. And this is only the beginning of what Thursday and her coworkers are trying to solve and put an end to in this book. Add to that some family hijinks and you have a book that appeals on just so many levels. If you're looking for a great book which is part adventure, part mystery and filled with a never-ending amount of literary allusions, The Eyre Affair is a perfect choice to read.

Rating: 9 Stars

I'm a literature major. This book is like some form of drugs to me. I salivate at the use of literary facts seen in this book. BUT just because I'm addicted to the world of Thursday Next, it doesn't mean someone else won't find this book a tad wordy. I consider it a very respectable novel and just a whole lot of fun to read. Try the book out and if you find that you adore it as much as I do, rejoice in the fact that there are a whole lot of Thursday Next novels available at this time for our enjoyment.

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