Mar 30, 2011

The Weeknight Book Club: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Image courtesy of: www.ala.org

It was hard work and at times I very nearly gave up, but I have now finished reading my first Jasper Fforde novel.  The hard work relates to trying to follow Fforde's witty and very clever writing style as he pulls of a plot and characters that wouldn't have worked in the hands of a lesser writer.  I am linking to the Wikipedia article on 'The Eyre Affair' at this point because it will probably summarize the novel better than I can.  I also have Miss Kitty Cat to thank for suggesting Jasper Fforde to me.

Thursday Next is the heroine of this novel.  She is a veteran of the Crimean War and is in her mid thirties with a painful relationship behind her.  Her brother died in the war and her father is a time traveller.  And that's where this novel becomes decidedly unusual.  The novel is set in a parallel universe in the year 1985 and Thursday is now a literary detective.

Fforde has filled this novel with clever literary allusions and plays on words.  The England he writes about is a Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory for the well read adult.  There are actual book worms who feed on words from texts, there is travel into the fabric of novels and very clever plays on words with characters named Jack Schit, Samuel Orbiter and Braxton Hicks.

It took me about a quarter of the novel to get used to the shifts in time and the devices Fforde used in to shift the plot in time in the parallel universe and also in the novels into which the characters 'visit'.  When I did get comfortable with the style of the novel, I was enthralled.

Jane Eyre is the main literary classic that is visited by Thursday as she fights the dastardly Acheron Hades.  She meets Mr Rochester and they help each other out.  Eventually, Thursday and her gang work to overcome the evil forces that threaten to corrupt the true ending of Jane Eyre.

'The Eyre Affair' is a highly imaginative and difficult to categorize novel.  I really enjoyed revisiting the novels I read in English Literature at school with the benefit of more academic insights into both works and their authors.  This is the first novel of the Thursday Next series and I'm curious to explore the rest of the series.  I'm going to take it slowly because they are puzzles as well as novels.

Has anyone else read much of Jasper Fforde's work?  I'd love to hear your opinions.

8 comments:

  1. That series just gets better and better. I enjoyed the first couple of books but I have loved the last couple. The latest book in the series is sitting on a table and I can't wait to get to it once I've finished my current book.

    The best thing about Fforde's writing is that it's very inventive and you somehow feel as though it's completely normal to be travelling through books or constructing your own dodo.

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  2. Love Jasper Fforde from years and years back. In fact, I've just finished re-reading the whole series (finished up today, actually). As you said, they're witty and incredibly original and they sit very well with my inner literary nerd. I'm actually a bit jealous that you still get to discover them :)

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  3. The Jasper books after The Eyre Affair get even better. Strange little books but very enjoyable. I just finished his latest Thursday Next book last week. The Nursery crime books are fun too.
    India

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  4. Dear Sidney Shop Girl,
    yes, I have read "The Big Over Easy" by Jasper Fforde - to be frank: it took me some time, but it was interesting. Though it didn't put me into a frenzy - meaning: sometimes I am so enthusiastic about an author, that I buy lots and lots of his/her books, quickly one after the other. That happened long time ago with all the Inspector Wexford novels by Ruth Rendell (but only those - her others are too spookey), with the Wycliffe novels, and with Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse novels - can bathe in them!

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  5. Sounds like an interesting plot...I read one of Jasper's novels, but so long ago I cannot remember if I enjoyed it or not!

    I find if books are a struggle I give up now...years ago I'd plod on but there are SO many great books that if I dislike it within the first 3 chapters...it's toast!

    Book Clubs do force you to persevere...maybe that's why I am not book club material :(

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  6. I read the first 4 of Fforde's novels in the latter part of high school. They were recommended to me by a nerdy friend and we used to obsess over them. As an adult, I reread them recently and just can't get over the hilarity and imagination of Fforde. I really encourage you to read on! xx

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  7. Thanks for all the positive Fforde feedback!

    I'll be looking out for more of them.

    SSG xxx

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  8. I'm reading the latest Thursday Next (One of Our Thursdays is Missing) - I've enjoyed the series but I think his earlier books are the best. I keep putting this book down and picking up The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which is not a vampire novel despite fellow commuters insisting that it is!).
    I wasn't a fan of Shades of Grey, but Fforde's work is always well thought out and original.

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