1985 in a Britain that is not really like the one in our world: airships cross the sky, genetically re-engineered dodos are the favorite pet and there’s an incredibly high tax on cheese. Most of this Britain is regulated by the Goliath corporation and people are really obsessed with literature.
Thursday Next works to LiteraTec, a special unit of the police devoted entirely to literary crime. She gets pulled into an investigation of Archeron Hades, supervillain with strange powers, who has stolen the original Martin Chuzzlewit manuscript. Not only is that document of historic value, but Thursday’s uncle Mycroft has invented a machine with which one can enter books – and Hades plans to use it to destroy Martin Chuzzlewit.
I love Jasper Fforde. His books are filled to the brim with creative details that just blow your mind. And in the Thursday Next novels he has not only a wonderfully colorful world but also a perfect heroine. So, who cares that his plotting isn’t really the tightest?
The Eyre Affair was the first Fforde book I read and it immediately got me hooked. Re-reading it now, after knowing his other works, too, there were a couple of details that I noticed with delight that didn’t (and couldn’t, really) mean anything to me the first time round. There’s a mention of quarkbeasts (who re-appear in The Last Dragonslayer)! Jack Spratt is mentioned, too (who gets his own spin-off in the Nursery Crime Division books)!
But mostly, I just enjoyed that the book took me along for the ride again.There’s just such a wealth of ideas in it, it’s hard to decide what I like best about the books: the time travels? the book jumping? the literature-obsessed world (was it really Shakespeare who wrote the plays)? Landen? The metafiction in general?
And Thursday is such a perfect character. Flawed and engaging, independent, intelligent and strong – I wish all characters were that awesome. I just wish that Fforde took a little more care with her PTSD. It starts off that way and is then a bit lost.
I have to admit that reading Jane Eyre before delving into this book again wasn’t really that necessary. I mean, yeah, there were things I certainly missed before and I just loved how Fforde changes the novel Jane Eyre in Thursday’s world so it can become like the novel in our world. But it works perfectly fine without having read the original – and Jane Eyre just isn’t that good, imo. In any case, Fforde’s Rochester is so much better than Brontë’s.
The stroy is told with such charm, wit and a great sense of humor that you’re more than willing to overlook the shortcomings in the plotting. There’s a bit Deus ex Machina and a few loose ends just flying around, but as I said, you just don’t care that much.
Summarising: I can only recommend reading The Eyre Affair. And then the rest of what Fforde has written.