The Eyre Affair (#1) by Jasper Fforde

Published: July 19th 2001
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 373
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s Mr Big. Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing. 

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again…

This has got to be one of the funnest, funniest and greatest books I have read. It is set in an alternative 1985 and literally explores novels and literature in a way I just cannot believe. Jasper Fforde has the ability to delve into the literary world with accuracy and consideration for every possible outcome and explanation. The story follows Thursday Next as she works on solving literary issues that arise in this surreal world of hers, and in her role as
a literary detective she is part of the team that keeps novels on track and when they are interrupted or, as it were, stolen.

In this first adventure Jane Eyre is under threat and Thursday is trying to keep the story uninterrupted while chasing an old enemy through its pages. What was brilliant about this book is that even though I have read Jane Eyre, I spent so much time a little bit confused and trying to trust my own memories while I was being told something different. The fact that Fforde treats these literary characters as real people, very much like actors in a play, it is astounding and fascinating.

But despite the hype, Jane Eyre is not the only aspect of this novel and Fforde uses it to introduce us to this alternative world. There is a lot that is similar to the regular 1985 but there are certainly variations such as cloning, and the dodos, and the time travel being the big ones. It is not even as if the future has arrived early, there is just this ‘what if’ element that makes it a little science fictiony about ‘well what if the Crimean War was entering its one hundred and thirty-first year’, and ‘what if there was this agency that made sure all the literary characters behaved themselves and stopped Hamlet from chucking tantrums’. You know, little things like that.

When I read books of these nature a small but demanding part of me wishes that these things could really happen. There are enough quotes floating about from decades past and present that speak about how characters come alive in the reading but what this is, this was brilliant, I don’t know how many more ways I could say it. The quotes that can come out of this book alone are funny and clever and manage to suit all sorts of situations. Also, and I think this is terribly unfair of Fforde, is that with all these mentions of Shakespeare and oh, Great Expectations, you spend most of the time reading about Thursday and the other part thinking ‘oh I really want to read Great Expectations now’. So I offer one hearty angry fist shake at Mr Fforde for adding more books to my growing pile, and with the other shake his hand for showing me that stories can be whatever it is you want them to be and just let your mind write whatever bizarre things it thinks of- within reason of course…this is how bad literature is written. So if the idea of exploring classic and wonderful novels from absolutely new and exciting angles doesn’t get you in, then time travel, dodos, funny character names and the idea of being stuck in a Wordsworth poem should be enough to entice anybody to at least have a look. From the first few chapters I knew I would adore this series and certainly by the end of the book I wished upon all my wishes that we too could own Dodos.

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