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“Fforde [has a] head-spinning narrative agility. His novel is satire, fantasy, literary criticism, thriller, whodunit, game, puzzle, joke, postmodern prank and tilt-a-whirl. Okay, maybe Lost in a Good Book is a creature with more than the usual number of feet. But it’s exceptionally light on all of them…[Fforde] is irrepressible good company” —The Washington Post
“Enchanting…a tale to savor. Harry Potter fans outgrowing Hogwarts should dive in.” —People
“Lost [ in a Good Book] is even more richly crammed with jokes, ideas and action. Brainier silliness is hard to find. A-.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Car chases, missing husbands, evil villains, a plucky heroine, and the Cheshire Cat. Jasper Fforde’s latest is mystery at its most fun—with a sci-fi twist.” —Marie Claire
“A joyful read, full of puns, allusions, and sheer fun. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal
“Time flies—and leaps and zigzags—while reading this wickedly funny and clever fantasy. Would-be wordsmiths and mystery fans will find the surreal genre-buster irresistible.” —Publishers Weekly
“Just what the doctor ordered now, in a world under the shadow of war, at the tail end of a long, cold winter…Lost in a Good Book resembles whipped cream—as sweet and light as the promise of spring.” —Salon.com
“Entertainingly surreal. Perhaps even more clever than its predecessor [The Eyre Affair], the new story offers a plot stuffed with enough coincidences and characters to make Dickens proud.” —Orlando Sentinel
“The book-jumping high jinks continue in Fforde’s equally whimsical Lost in a Good Book… its mix of surrealism, satire and adventure proves to be totally absorbing.” —Time Out New York
“Fforde’s wicked sense of humor and wide-ranging intelligence make every page a joy.” —The New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Fforde packs Lost in a Good Book to the rafters with sophisticated literary allusions, numerous interweaving subplots and wildly imaginative details. It’s obvious from the way he leaves things that Fforde has many more adventures in mind for his heroine; and with so many classics to choose from, Thursday will certainly have plenty of allies on her side.” —The Seattle Times
Sample viewing figures for major TV networks in England, September 1985
The Adrian Lush Show (Wednesday) (Chat show) 16,428,316
The Adrian Lush Show (Monday) (Chat show) 16,034,921
Bonzo the Wonder Hound (Canine thriller) 15,975,462
Name That Fruit! (Answer questions for cash prizes) 15,320,340
65 Walrus Street (Soap opera; Episode 3,352) 14,315,902
Dangerously Dysfunctional People Argue Live on TV (Chat show) 11,065,611
Will Marlowe or Kit Shakespeare? (Literary quiz show) 13,591,203
One More Chance to See! (Reverse extinction show) 2,321,820
GOLIATH CABLE CHANNEL (1 TO 32)
Whose Lie Is It Anyway? (Corporate comedy quiz show) 428
Cots to Coffins: Goliath. All you'll ever need. (Docuganda) 9 (disputed)
NEANDERTHAL CABLE NETWORK 4
Powertool Club Live (Routers and power planers edition) 9,032
Jackanory Gold (Jane Eyre edition) 7,219
The Ratings War
I DIDN'T ASK to be a celebrity. I never wanted to appear on The Adrian Lush Show. And let's get one thing straight right now-the world would have to be hurtling toward imminent destruction before I'd agree to anything as dopey as The Thursday Next Workout Video.
The publicity surrounding the successful rebookment of Jane Eyre was fun to begin with but rapidly grew wearisome. I happily posed for photocalls, agreed to newspaper interviews, hesitantly appeared on Desert Island Smells and was thankfully excused the embarrassment of Celebrity Name That Fruit. The public, ever fascinated by celebrity, had wanted to know everything about me following my excursion within the pages of Jane Eyre, and since the Special Operations Network have a PR record on par with that of Vlad the Impaler, the Top Brass thought it would be a good wheeze to use me to boost their flagging popularity. I dutifully toured all points of the globe doing signings, library openings, talks and interviews. The same questions, the same SpecOps-approved answers. Supermarket openings, literary dinners, offers of book deals. I even met the actress Lola Vavoom, who said that she would simply adore to play me if there was a film. It was tiring, but more than that-it was dull. For the first time in my career at the Literary Detectives I actually missed authenticating Milton.
I'd taken a week's leave as soon my tour ended so Landen and I could devote some time to married life. I moved all my stuff to his house, rearranged his furniture, added my books to his and introduced my dodo, Pickwick, to his new home. Landen and I ceremoniously partitioned the bedroom closet space, decided to share the sock drawer, then had an argument over who was to sleep on the wall side of the bed. We had long and wonderfully pointless conversations about nothing in particular, walked Pickwick in the park, went out to dinner, stayed in for dinner, stared at each other a lot and slept in late every morning. It was wonderful.
On the fourth day of my leave, just between lunch with Landen's mum and Pickwick's notable first fight with the neighbor's cat, I got a call from Cordelia Flakk. She was the senior SpecOps PR agent here in Swindon and she told me that Adrian Lush wanted me on his show. I wasn't mad keen on the idea-or the show. But there was an upside. The Adrian Lush Show went out live, and Flakk assured me that this would be a "no holds barred" interview, something that held a great deal of appeal. Despite my many appearances, the true story about Jane Eyre was yet to be told-and I had been wanting to drop the Goliath Corporation in it for quite a while. Flakk's assurance that this would finally be the end of the press junket clinched my decision. Adrian Lush it would be.
I traveled up to the NetworkToad studios a few days later on my own; Landen had a deadline looming and needed to get his head down. But I wasn't alone for long. As soon as I stepped into the large entrance lobby a milk-curdling shade of green strode purposefully towards me.
"Thursday, darling!" cried Cordelia, beads rattling. "So glad you could make it!" The SpecOps dress code stated that our apparel should be "dignified," but in Cordelia's case they had obviously stretched a point. She looked about as far from a serving officer as one could get. Looks, in her case, were highly deceptive. She was SpecOps all the way from her high heels to the pink-and-yellow scarf tied in her hair.
She air-kissed me affectionately. "How's married life treating you?"
"Excellent, my dear, I wish you and ... er ..."
"Yes; I wish you and Landen both the best. Love what you've done with your hair!"
"My hair? I haven't done anything with my hair!"
"Exactly!" replied Flakk quickly. "It's so incredibly you. What do you think of the outfit?"
"One's attention is drawn straight to it," I replied ambiguously.
"This is 1985," she explained. "Bright colors are the future. See this top? Half price in the sales. I'll let you loose in my wardrobe one day."
"I think I've got some pink socks of my own somewhere."
"It's a start, my dear. Listen, you've been a shining star about all this publicity work; I'm very grateful-and so is SpecOps."
"Grateful enough to post me somewhere other than the Literary Detectives?" I asked hopefully.
"Well," murmured Cordelia reflectively, "first things first. As soon as you've done the Lush interview your transfer application will be aggressively considered, you have my word on that."
I sighed. "Aggressively considered" had the ring of "definitely perhaps" about it and wasn't as promising as I could have wished. Despite the successes at work, I still wanted to move up within the Network. Cordelia, reading my disappointment, took my arm in a friendly gesture and steered me towards the waiting area.
"Spot of bother in Auckland?"
"Brontë Federation offshoot caused a bit of trouble," I explained. "They didn't like the new ending of Jane Eyre."
"There'll always be a few malcontents," observed Flakk with a smile. "Milk?"
"Just a tad."
"Oh," she said, staring at the milk jug, "this milk's off. No matter. Listen," she said quietly,
"I'd love to stay and watch, but some SpecOps-17 clot in Penzance staked a Goth by mistake; it's going to be PR hell on earth down there."
SO-17 were the Vampire and Werewolf Disposal Operation. Despite a new three-point confirmation procedure, a jumpy cadet with a sharpened stake could still spell big trouble.
"Everything is all absolutely hunky-dory here. I've spoken to Adrian Lush and the others so there won't be any embarrassments."
"No holds barred, eh?" I grimaced, but Flakk was unapologetic.
"Needs must, Thursday. SpecOps requires your support in these difficult times. President Formby himself has called for an inquiry into whether SpecOps are value-for-money-or even necessary at all."
"Okay," I agreed, quite against my better judgment, "but this is the very last interview, yes?"
"Of course!" agreed Flakk hastily, then added in an overdramatic manner: "Oh my goodness is that the time? I have to catch the airship to Barnstaple in an hour. This is Adie; she'll be looking after you and ... and-" here Cordelia leaned just a little bit closer-"remember you're SpecOps, darling!"
She air-kissed me again, glanced at her watch and took to her heels in a cloud of expensive scent.
"How could I forget?" I muttered as a bouncy girl clutching a clipboard appeared from where she had been waiting respectfully out of earshot.
"Hi!" squeaked the girl. "I'm Adie. I'm so pleased to meet you!"
She grasped my hand and told me repeatedly what a fantastic honor it was.
"I don't want to bug you or anything," she asked shyly, "but was Edward Rochester really drop-dead-gorgeous-to-die-for?"
"Not handsome," I answered as I watched Flakk slink off down the corridor, "but certainly attractive. Tall, deep voice and glowering looks, if you know the type."
Adie turned a deep shade of pink.
I was taken into makeup, where I was puffed and primped, talked at mercilessly and made to sign copies of the FeMole I had appeared in. I was very relieved when Adie came to rescue me thirty minutes later. She announced into her wireless that we were "walking" and then, after leading me down a corridor and through some swing doors, asked:
"What's it like working in SpecOps? Do you chase bad guys, clamber around on the outside of airships, defuse bombs with three seconds to go, that sort of stuff?"
"I wish I did," I replied good-humoredly, "but in truth it's 70% form filling, 27% mind-numbing tedium and 2% sheer terror."
"And the remaining 1%?"
I smiled. "That's what keeps us going."
We walked the seemingly endless corridors, past large grinning photographs of Adrian Lush and assorted other NetworkToad celebrities.
"You'll like Adrian," she told me happily, "and he'll like you. Just don't try to be funnier than him; it doesn't suit the format of the show."
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know. I'm meant to tell all his guests that."
"Even the comedians?"
"Especially the comedians."
I assured her being funny was furthest from my mind, and pretty soon she directed me onto the studio floor. Feeling unusually nervous and wishing that Landen was with me, I walked across the familiar front-room set of The Adrian Lush Show. But Mr. Lush was nowhere to be seen-and neither were the "Live Studio Audience" a Lush show usually boasted. Instead, a small group of officials were waiting-the "others" Flakk had told me about. My heart fell when I saw who they were.
"Ah, there you are, Next!" boomed Commander Braxton Hicks with forced bonhomie. "You're looking well, healthy, and, er, vigorous." He was my divisional chief back at Swindon, and despite being head of the Literary Detectives, was not that good with words.
"What are you doing here, sir?" I asked him, straining not to show my disappointment.
"Cordelia told me the Lush interview would be uncensored in every way."
"Oh it is, dear girl-up to a point," he said, stroking his large mustache. "Without benign intervention things can get very confused in the public mind. We thought we would listen to the interview and perhaps-if the need arose-offer practical advice as to how the proceedings should-er-proceed."
I sighed. My untold story looked set to remain exactly that. Adrian Lush, supposed champion of free speech, the man who had dared to air the grievances felt by the neanderthal, the first to suggest publicly that the Goliath Corporation "had shortcomings," was about to have his nails well and truly clipped.
"Colonel Flanker you've already met," went on Braxton without drawing breath.
I eyed the man suspiciously. I knew him well enough. He was at SpecOps-1, the division that polices SpecOps itself. He had interviewed me about the night I had first tried to tackle master criminal Acheron Hades-the night Snood and Tamworth died. He tried to smile several times but eventually gave up and offered his hand for me to shake instead.
"This is Colonel Rabone," carried on Braxton. "She is head of Combined Forces Liaison." I shook hands with the colonel.
Always honored to meet a holder of the Crimean Cross," she said, smiling.
"And over here," continued Braxton in a jocular tone that was obviously designed to put me at ease-a ploy that failed spectacularly-"is Mr. Schitt-Hawse of the Goliath Corporation." Schitt-Hawse was a tall, thin man whose pinched features seemed to compete for position in the center of his face. His head tilted to the left in a manner that reminded me of an inquisitive budgerigar, and his dark hair was fastidiously combed back from his forehead.
He put out his hand.
"Would it upset you if I didn't shake it?" I asked him.
"Well, yes," he replied, trying to be affable.
The Goliath Corporation's pernicious hold over the nation was not universally appreciated, and I had a far greater reason to dislike them-the last Goliath employee I had dealt with was an odious character by the name of Jack Schitt. We had tricked him into a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," a place in which I hoped he could do no harm.
"Schitt-Hawse, eh?" I said. "Any relation to Jack?"
"He was-is-my half brother," said Schitt-Hawse slowly, "and believe me, Ms. Next, he wasn't working for us when he planned to prolong the Crimean War in order to create demand for Goliath weaponry."
"And you never knew he had sided with Hades either, I suppose?"
"Of course not!" replied Schitt-Hawse in an offended tone.
"If you had known, would you admit it?"
Schitt-Hawse scowled and said nothing. Braxton coughed politely and continued:
"And this is Mr. Chesterman of the Brontë Federation."
Chesterman blinked at me uncertainly. The changes I had wrought upon Jane Eyre had split the federation. I hoped he was one of the ones who preferred the happier ending.
"Back there is Captain Marat of the ChronoGuard," continued Braxton. Marat, at this moment in his time, was a schoolboy of about twelve. He looked at me with interest. The ChronoGuard were the SpecOps division that took care of Anomalous Time Ripplation-my father had been one or was one or would be one, depending on how you looked at it.
"Have we met before?" I asked him.
"Not yet," he replied cheerfully, returning to his copy of The Beano.
"Well!" said Braxton, clapping his hands together. "I think that's everyone. Next, I want you to pretend we're just not here."
Braxton was interrupted by a slight disturbance offstage.
"The bastards!" yelled a high voice. "If the network dares to replace my Monday slot with reruns of Bonzo the Wonder Hound I'll sue them for every penny they have!"
A tall man of perhaps fifty-five had walked into the studio accompanied by a small group of assistants. He had handsome chiseled features and a luxuriant swirl of white hair that looked as though it had been carved from polystyrene. He wore an immaculately tailored suit and his fingers were heavily weighed down with gold jewelry. He stopped short when he saw us.
"Ah!" said Adrian Lush disdainfully. "SpecOps!"
His entourage flustered around him with lots of energy but very little purpose. They seemed to hang on his every word and action, and I suddenly felt a great sense of relief that I wasn't in the entertainments business.
"I've had a lot to do with you people in the past," explained Lush as he made himself comfortable on his trademark green sofa, something he clearly regarded as a territorial safe retreat. "It was I that coined the phrase 'SpecOops' whenever you make a mistake-sorry, 'Operational unexpectation'-isn't that what you like to call them?" But Hicks ignored Lush's inquiries and introduced me as though I were his only daughter being offered up for marriage.
"Mr. Lush, this is Special Operative Thursday Next."
Lush jumped up and bounded over to shake me by the hand in an effusive and energetic manner. Flanker and the others sat down; they looked very small in the middle of the empty studio. They weren't going to leave and Lush wasn't going to ask them to-I knew that Goliath owned NetworkToad and was beginning to doubt whether Lush had any control over this interview at all.
"Hello, Thursday!" said Lush excitedly. "Welcome to my Monday show. It's the second-highest-rated show in England-my Wednesday show is the first!" He laughed infectiously and I smiled uneasily.
"Then this will be your Thursday show," I replied, eager to lighten the situation. There was dead silence.
"Will you be doing that a lot?" asked Lush in a subdued tone.
"Making jokes. You see ... have a seat, darling. You see, I generally make the jokes on this show and although it's perfectly okay for you to make jokes, then I'm going to have to pay someone to write funnier ones, and our budget, like Goliath's scruples, is on the small side of Leptonic."
"Can I say something?" said a voice from the small audience. It was Flanker, who carried on talking without waiting for a reply. "SpecOps is a serious business and should be reflected so in your interview. Next, I think you should let Mr. Lush tell the jokes."
"Is that all right?" asked Lush, beaming.
"Sure," I replied. "Is there anything else I shouldn't do?" Lush looked at me and then looked at the panel in the front row.
They all mumbled among themselves for a few seconds.
"I think," said Flanker again, "that we-sorry, you-should just do the interview and then we can discuss it later. Miss Next can say whatever she wants as long as it doesn't contravene any SpecOps or Goliath Corporate guidelines."
"-or military," added Colonel Rabone, anxious not to be left out.
"Is that okay?" asked Lush.
"Whatever," I returned, eager to get on with it.
"Excellent! I'll do your intro, although you'll be off camera for that. The floor manager will cue you and you'll enter. Wave to where the audience might have been and when you are comfy, I'll ask you some questions. I may offer you some toast at some point as our sponsors, the Toast Marketing Board, like to get a plug in now and again. Is there any part of that you don't understand?"
"Good. Here we go."
There was a flurry of activity as Lush had his hair adjusted, his makeup checked and his costume tweaked. After a cursory glance at me I was ushered offstage and after what seemed like an epoch of inaction, Lush was counted in by a floor manager. On cue he turned to camera one and switched on his best and brightest smile.
"Tonight is a very special occasion with a very special guest. She is a decorated war heroine, a literary detective whose personal intervention not only restored the novel of Jane Eyre but actually improved the ending. She single-handedly defeated Acheron Hades, ended the Crimean War and boldly hoodwinked the Goliath Corporation. Ladies and gentlemen, in an unprecedented interview from a serving SpecOps officer, please give a warm welcome to Thursday Next of the Swindon Literary Detective office!"
A bright light swung onto my entrance doorway, and Adie smiled and tapped my arm. I walked out to meet Lush, who rose to greet me enthusiastically.
"Excuse me," came a voice from the small group sitting in the front row of the empty auditorium. It was Schitt-Hawse, the Goliath representative.
"Yes?" asked Lush in an icy tone.
"You're going to have to drop the reference to the Goliath Corporation," said Schitt-Hawse in the sort of tone that brooks no argument. "It serves no purpose other than to needlessly embarrass a large company that is doing its very best to improve everyone's lives."
"I agree," said Flanker. "And all references to Hades will have to be avoided. He is still listed as 'Missing, fervently hoped dead,' so any unauthorized speculation might have dangerous consequences."
"Okay," murmured Lush, scribbling a note. "Anything else?"
"Any reference to the Crimean War and the Plasma Rifle," said the colonel, "might be considered inappropriate. The peace talks at Budapest are still at a delicate stage; the Russians will make any excuse to leave the table. We know that your show is very popular in Moscow."
"The Brontë Federation is not keen for you to say the new ending is improved," put in the small and bespectacled Chesterman, "and talking about any of the characters you met within Jane Eyre might cause some viewers to suffer Xplkqulkiccasia." The condition was unknown before my jump into Eyre. It was so serious that the Medical Council were compelled to make up an especially unpronounceable word to describe it. Lush looked at them, looked at me and then looked at his script.
"How about if I just said her name?"
"That would be admirable," intoned Flanker, "except you might also want to assure the viewers that this interview is uncensored. Everyone else agree?" They all enthusiastically added their assent to Flanker's suggestion. I could see this was going to be a very long and tedious afternoon.
Lush's entourage came back on and made the tiniest adjustments, I was repositioned, and after waiting what seemed like another decade, Lush began again.
"Ladies and gentlemen, in a frank and open interview tonight, Thursday Next talks unhindered about her work at SpecOps."
No one said anything, so I entered, shook Lush's hand and took a seat on his sofa.
"Welcome to the show, Thursday."
"We'll get on to your career in the Crimea in a moment, but I'd like to kick off by asking-" With a magician's flourish he pulled a serviette off the table in front of us, revealing a platter of toast with assorted toppings.
"-if you would care for some toast?"
"Tasty and nutritious!" He smiled, facing the camera.
"Perfect as a snack or even a light meal-good with eggs, sardines or even-"
"No, thank you."
Lush's smile froze on his face as he muttered through clenched teeth:
"Have ... some ... toast."
But it was too late. The floor manager came on the set and announced that the unseen director of the show had called cut. Lush's face dropped its permanent smile and his small army of beauticians came on and fussed over him once more. The floor manager had a one-way conversation into his headphones before turning to me with a concerned expression on his face.
"The Director of Placements wants to know if you would take a small bite of toast when offered."
"I've eaten already."
The floor manager turned and spoke into his headphones again.
"She says she's eaten already!... I know.... Yes.... What if... Yes.... Ah-ha.... What do you want me to do? Sit on her and force it down her throat!?!... Yesss.... Ah-ha.... I know.... Yes.... Yes.... Okay."
He turned back to me.
"How about jam instead of marmalade?"
"I don't really like toast," I told him-which was partly true, although to be honest I think I was just feeling a bit troublesome because of Braxton and his entourage.
"I said I don't-"
"She says she doesn't like toast!" said the floor manager in an exasperated tone. "What in hell's name are we going to do!?!"
Flanker stood up.
"Next, eat the sodding toast will you? I've got a meeting in two hours."
"And I've a golf tournament," added Braxton.
I sighed. I thought perhaps I had a small amount of control on the show, but even that had vanished.
"Does marmalade fit in with your plans, sir?" I asked Braxton, who grunted in the affirmative and sat down again.
"Okay. Make it granary with marmalade, go easy on the butter."
The floor manager smiled as though I had just saved his job-which I probably had-and everything started over once again.
"Would you like some toast?" asked Lush.
I took a small bite. Everyone was watching me, so I decided to make it easy for them. "Very good indeed."
I saw the floor manager giving me an enthusiastic thumbs-up as he dabbed his brow with a handkerchief.
"Right," sighed Lush. "Let's get on with it. First I would like to ask the question that everyone wants to know: How did you actually get into the book of Jane Eyre in the first place?"
"That's easily explained," I began. "You see, my uncle Mycroft invented a device called a Prose Portal-"
Flanker coughed. I could sense what he was going to say and I cursed myself for being so foolish as to believe The Adrian Lush Show would be uncensored. I was SpecOps, after all.
"Ms. Next," began Flanker, "perhaps you don't know it but your uncle is still the subject of a secrecy certificate dating back to 1934. It might be prudent if you didn't mention him-or the Prose Portal."
The floor manager yelled, "We've cut!" again and Lush thought for a moment.
"Can we talk about how Hades stole the manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit?"
"Let me think," replied Flanker, then after a tiny pause, said: "No."
"It's not something we want the citizenry to think is-" said Marat so suddenly that quite a few people jumped. Up until that moment he hadn't said a word.
"Sorry?" asked Flanker.
"Nothing," said the ChronoGuard operative, who was now in his mid-sixties. "I'm just getting a touch proleptic in my old age."
"Can we talk about the successful return of Jane to her book?" I asked wearily.
"I refer you to my previous answer," growled Flanker.
"How about the time my partner Bowden and I drove through a patch of bad time on the motorway?"
"It's not something we want the citizenry to think is easy," said Marat-who was now in his early twenties-with renewed enthusiasm. "If the public think that ChronoGuard work is straightforward, confidence might well be shaken."
"Quite correct," asserted Flanker.
"Perhaps you'd like to do this interview?" I asked him.
"Hey!" said Flanker, standing up and jabbing a finger in my direction. "There's no need to get snippy with us, Next. You're here to do a job in your capacity as a serving SpecOps officer. You are not here to tell the truth as you see it!" Lush looked uneasily at me; I raised my eyebrows and shrugged.
"Now look here," said Lush in a strident tone, "if I'm going to interview Ms. Next I must ask questions that the public want to hear!"
"Oh, you can!" said Flanker agreeably. "You can ask whatever you want. Free speech is enshrined in statute, and neither SpecOps nor Goliath have any business to coerce you in any way. We are just here to observe, comment, and enlighten." Lush knew what Flanker meant and Flanker knew that Lush knew. I knew that Flanker and Lush knew it and they both knew I knew it too. Lush looked nervous and fidgeted slightly. Flanker's assertion of Lush's independence was anything but. A word To NetworkToad from Goliath and Lush would end up presenting SheepWorld on Lerwick TV, and he didn't want that. Not one little bit.
We fell silent for a moment as Lush and I tried to figure out a topic that was outside their broad parameters.
"How about commenting on the ludicrously high tax on cheese?" I asked. It was a joke, but Flanker and Co. weren't terribly expert when it came to jokes.
"I have no objection," murmured Flanker. "Anyone else?"
"Not me," said Schitt-Hawse.
"Or me," added Rabone.
"I have an objection," said a woman who had been sitting quietly at the side of the studio. She spoke with a clipped home counties accent and was dressed in a tweed skirt, twinset and pearls.
"Allow me to introduce myself," she said in a loud and strident voice. "Mrs. Jolly Hilly, Governmental Representative to the Television Networks." She took a deep breath and carried on: "The so-called 'unfair cheese duty burden' is a very contentious subject at present. Any reference to it might be construed as an inflammatory act." "587% duty on hard cheeses and 620% on smelly?" I asked. "Cheddar Classic Gold Original at £9.32 a pound-Bodmin Molecular Unstable Brie at almost £10! What's going on?" The others, suddenly interested, all looked to Mrs. Hilly for an explanation. For a brief moment and probably the only moment ever, we were in agreement.
"I understand your concern," replied the trained apologist, "but I think you'll find that the price of cheese has, once adjusted for positive spin, actually gone down measured against the retail price index in recent years. Here, have a look at this."
She passed me a picture of a sweet little old lady on crutches.
"Old ladies who are not dissimilar to the actress in this picture will have to go without their hip replacements and suffer crippling pain if you selfishly demand cut-price cheese." She paused to let this sink in.
"The Master of the Sums feels that it is not for the public to dictate economic policy, but he is willing to make concessions for those who suffer particular hardship in the form of area-tactical needs-related cheese coupons."
"So," said Lush with a smile, "wheyving cheese tax is out of the question?"
"Or he could raise the custard duty," added Mrs. Hilly, missing the pun. "The pudding lobby is less-well-how should I put it-militant."
"Wheyving," said Lush again, for the benefit of anyone who had missed it. "Wheyve-oh, never mind. I've never heard a bigger load of crap in all my life. I aim to make the ludicrous price of cheese the subject of an Adrian Lush Special Report." Mrs. Hilly flushed slightly and chose her words carefully.
"If there were another cheese riot following your Special Report we might look very carefully as to where to place responsibility."
She looked at the Goliath representative as she said this. The implication wasn't lost on Schitt-Hawse or Lush. I had heard enough.
"So I won't talk about cheese either," I sighed. "What can I talk about?" The small group all looked at one another with perplexed expressions. Flanker clicked his fingers as an idea struck him.
"Don't you own a dodo?"
—from Lost in a Good Book: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde, Copyright © 2003 Jasper Fforde, published by Viking Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
|1.||The Adrian Lush Show||1|
|2.||The Special Operations Network||19|
|4.||Five Coincidences, Seven Irma Cohens and One Confused Neanderthal||48|
|4a.||Five Coincidences, Seven Irma Cohens and One Confused Thursday Next||67|
|7.||White Horse, Uffington, Picnics, for the Use of||93|
|8.||Mr. Stiggins and SO-1||105|
|9.||The More Things Stay the Same||116|
|10.||A Lack of Differences||124|
|12.||At Home with My Memories||141|
|15.||Curiouser & Curiouser in Osaka||168|
|16.||Interview with the Cat||177|
|18.||The Trial of Fraulein N||193|
|21.||Les Artes Modernes de Swindon '85||223|
|22.||Travels with My Father||239|
|23.||Fun with Spike||255|
|24.||Performance-Related Pay, Miles Hawke & Norland Park||268|
|25.||Roll Call at Jurisfiction||283|
|26.||Assignment One: Bloophole Filled in Great Expectations||298|
|27.||Landen and Joffy Again||315|
|32.||The End of Life as We Know It||375|
|33.||The Dawn of Life as We Know It||382|
|34.||The Well of Lost Plots||387|
Thursday's hopes for a quiet life with her new husband, Landen, are dashed when a seemingly impossible string of coincidences involving a falling car, a disgruntled Neanderthal, and a mysterious young woman leads to some extremely close brushes with death. Her jumpy ChronoGuard father rescues her just in time, only to reveal to her that the world is destined to become one big, pink blob of Dream Topping in a matter of days unless they can figure out how and why it happens. And just when Thursday discovers that she is pregnant with Landen's child, the Goliath goons eradicate Landen from existence, threatening to make it permanent unless Thursday retrieves her nemesis Jack Schitt from his imprisonment in a copy of "The Raven"—this time without the help of her now retired uncle Mycroft's mad machinery. Thursday's loved ones are disappearing, while her list of enemies appears to be growing steadily.
Luckily, Thursday's fictional colleagues in an internal book-policing squad called Jurisfiction have eagerly anticipated her return to the book world, assigning her to apprentice under the tutelage of one of their greatest agents, the abrasive Miss Havisham of Great Expectations. Thursday discovers that the sudden materialization of Shakespeare's long-lost play Cardenio, which she had been investigating for SpecOps 27, was indeed too good to be true—it has evidently been stolen from the Great Library by a rogue character from the book world. With Miss Havisham and Jurisfiction's help, Thursday must find the perpetrator and return Cardenio to its proper home in the Well of Lost Plots—the home of all unpublished works—before the thief can gain all the power and money that goes with its release in the real world.
Lost in a Good Book
Jasper Fforde is the author of The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, (both from Penguin) and The Well of Lost Plots (Viking), the first three books in the Thursday Next fantasy/detective series. He lives in Wales
AN INTERVIEW WITH JASPER FFORDE
Thursday Next seems to be descended from a long line of British crime stoppers like Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, and her name is a clear homage to G. K. Chesterton's classic The Man Who Was Thursday. Who are your favorite fictional detectives and how, if at all, did they shape Thursday Next?
Actually, the name wasn't drawn from Chesterton at all; neither, as a reader suggested, from Paris's line in Romeo and Juliet:
Paris: What may be must be this Thursday next.
Juliet: What must be must be.
Friar Lawrence: Now there's a certain text.
Much as I would like to claim either as the truth, sadly not. The real influence was much closer to home and infinitely more mundane. My mother used to refer to days in the future in this manner: "Wednesday week, Tuesday next," etc., and I just liked the "tum-te-tum" internal rhythm of "Thursday Next." It intrigued me, too. What kind of woman would have a name like this? I'm not sure which detective Thursday is drawn from—perhaps all of them. My favorite detective was always Miss Marple, and perhaps Thursday has Jane's strict adherence to duty and the truth. There is undeniably a bit of James Bond, Sam Spade, and Richard Hannay about her, although as character models I have always drawn on women aviators from the golden age of aviation, as these extraordinary characters (Bennett, Earhart, Markham, Coleman, Johnson) had not just a great passion and zest for life and adventure but also an overriding sense of purpose. In a word, Spirit.
You worked in the film industry for nineteen years before becoming a full-time writer. In our society, film is a more popular and lucrative medium than books, but in Thursday's world, the novel is king. Having had a finger in each pie, would you prefer to live in Thursday's world or ours? Did your work in film affect the narrative of the novel?
I think I'd prefer to live in Thursday's world—and I do, six months a year when I'm writing the books. Mind you, if I were a writer in Thursday's world I'd be writing about a heroine who doesn't do extraordinary things at all and lives in a UK where not much happens. And when I was asked in THAT world which world I'd prefer to be in, I'd say... Oh, lawks, we've entered a sort of Nextian "closed-loop perpetual opposing answer paradox." Better go to the next question. Yes, film did most definitely affect the narrative. Because I have been educated in film grammar, I tend to see the books as visual stories first and foremost, and describe the story as I see it unfolding. That isn't to say I don't play a lot with book grammar, too, but I can't shrug off my visual origins. Mind you, I would contend that reading is a far more visual medium than film, as the readers have to generate all of the images themselves; all I do is offer up a few mnemonic signposts. I am always astounded by the number of readers who can describe the Nextian world in profound detail—perhaps this is the reason why movies-from-books tend to be such a huge disappointment.
What are your favorite classic novels?
Jane Eyre was probably my favorite of that type of "literary" classic. Dickens is great fun, too, although to be honest I still prefer Carroll's Alice in Wonderland for its high-quality nonsense virtuosity and Jerome's Three Men in a Boat for its warmth, observation, and humor. Both were written in Victorian times and are classics—just a different sort. Swift's Gulliver's Travelsis another firm favorite, as is Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody.
Why did you choose Jane Eyre for Thursday's first jump into literature?
Three reasons. First, it's a great book. The characters of Jane Eyre, Rochester, Mrs. Fairfax, Grace Poole, Bertha, and Pilot the dog are all great fun to subvert in the name of Nextian entertainment. Second, it is well known, even 150 years after publication. For The Eyre Affair to have any resonance the featured novel had to be familiar and respected. If potential readers of my book haven't read Jane Eyre they might have seen the film, and if they haven't done either, they might still know that Jane is a heroine of Victorian romantic fiction. I don't know of many other books that can do this. Third, it's in the public domain. I could do pretty much what I want and not have to worry about copyright problems—given the premise of the novel, something that had to remain a consideration!
Your novels have been described as a sort of Harry Potter series for adults. Why do you think fantasy and magic tales are enjoying so much popularity right now? Why do adults find the stories so satisfying?
I'm not really sure why fantasy is popular right now, but the tastes and moods of the book-reading public do tend to move around, so in a few years we might all be reading "Squid Action/Adventure" or "Western Accountancy," so who knows. Mind you, I've never been one to make such a huge distinction between children and adults—I have remained consistently suspicious of people who describe themselves as "adults" from a very early age. We all enjoy stories—it is a linking factor between all humans everywhere, that strange and uncontrollable urge to ask, "Yes, but what happens next?" Perhaps fantasy offers imaginative escapism more than other genres. I was very happy when I learned that Harry Potter was being sold in "plain covers" in the UK so adults could read it on the train without feeling embarrassed. "Ah," thinks I, "there is hope yet!"
The Tie-seller in Victoria says, "There are two schools of thought about the resilience of time. The first is that time is highly volatile, with every small event altering the possible outcome of the earth's future. The other view is that time is rigid, and no matter how hard you try, it will always spring back toward a determined present." Which do you think is more likely?
From a narrative point of view, the notion of time somehow wanting to keep on a predetermined course is far preferable. It makes the ChronoGuard's job that much harder. It's not easy to change things, as Colonel Next often finds out. Personally, I think time is highly volatile—and out there for us to change, if we so wish it. Most of the time we don't. Our notions of self-determination are, on the whole, something of a myth. We are governed almost exclusively by our own peculiar habits, which makes those who rail against them that much more remarkable.
If time travel were a reality, do you think it would be possible for people to visit other eras responsibly?
Of course not! When have humans ever behaved responsibly? That's not to say I wouldn't be first in the queue, but mankind is far too flawed to resist wanting to use this new technology to deal with other problems, such as radioactive waste disposal or something. Given mankind's record so far, it wouldn't be long before the criminal gangs moved in to steal items from the past to sell in the future. The ChronoGuard refer to this sort of crime as "Retrosnatch," although the upside of this is that you can always catch the person red-handed after the event. Before the event. During the event.
If you could travel in time, when would you want to visit and why?
Good question! The choice is endless. Since I'm a fan of nineteenth-century history, one of the times I would visit would be during a conversation that took place between Nelson and Wellington in September 1805. It was the only time these two historical giants met. Failing that, the day Isambard Kingdom Brunel launched his gargantuan steamship the Great Eastern into the Thames or, further back still, 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth—must have been quite a light show. Closer to home, I suppose I'd like to revisit the first time I learned to ride a bicycle without stabilizers—a more joyous feeling of fulfillment, freedom, and attainment could only be equaled by the time one learns to walk or read.
Acheron Hades may be the third most evil man on earth, but he's also a charming, seductive adversary with some of the best lines in the book. If Acheron Hades is only the third most evil man on earth, who are second and first, and will Thursday get to face them?
The "third most evil man" device was to hint at a far bigger world beyond the covers of the book. Since I made this rash claim many people have asked the same question, and I can reveal that the Hades family comprises five boys—Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, Cocytus, and Lethe—and the only girl, Aornis. Described once by Vlad the Impaler as "unspeakably repellent," the Hades family drew strength from deviancy and committing every sort of debased horror that they could—some with panache, some with halfhearted seriousness, others with a sort of relaxed insouciance about the whole thing. Lethe, the "white sheep" of the family, was hardly cruel at all—but the others more than made up for him.
Acheron Hades isn't the only personification of evil in your novels. Just as evil, and much more insidious, is the English government's indentured servitude to the Goliath Corporation and Goliath's willingness to sacrifice human lives for wartime financial gain. Why did you choose a corporation as the other major villain in the story? Do you think a relationship like the one between England's government and the Goliath Corporation could exist in real life?
I like the Orwellian feel of Goliath—oppressive and menacing in the background. As a satirical tool, its use is boundless. I can highlight the daftness of corporations and governments quite easily within its boundaries. Goliath is insidious, but what I like about it most is that it is entirely shameless in what it does—and that no one in Thursday's world (except perhaps Thursday herself) seems to think there is anything wrong with it. Perhaps the fun with Goliath is not just about corporations per se, but how we react to them.
The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, and The Well of Lost Plots have all been great successes, and I'm sure your fans will make a success of their follow-up, Something Rotten. If you could retire now and live in any book, which book would you like to spend the rest of your days living in?
An all-book pass to the P. G. Wodehouse series would be admirable. Afternoon teas, a succession of dotty aunts, impostors at Blandings Castle—what could be better or more amusing?
Posted August 22, 2009
You don't need to read the first in the series though. The author will have you caught up well in the first few pages. I enjoyed the series so much that I had to run out and get all the books. It's great reading for a summer day or just to escape the everyday. A great mixture of Sci-fi and mystery. The mystery's take place inside of books. But the book's characters are able to jump from their book world into the three-dimensional earth world. The earth world outside of the books is England but with a very different evolution than the England we know today.
Alot of fun and very enjoyable reading.
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Posted March 2, 2012
This is the second book in the Thursday Next series, and is every bit as good as the first. In Lost in a Good Book, Thursday Next must save the world while trying to rescue her eradicated husband Landen. Fforde’s writing is humorous, making for a quick, light read. Several reviewers said this book is darker than the first, which I suppose it is, though it never would have occurred to me. It has very little violence and given the nature of Fforde’s universe everything is reversible, so what does it matter if the attacks on Thursday are a little more personal in this book? I plan on reading the rest of the series, but I think I’ll take a break and clean the puns out of my brain before I start another one. Fforde’s humor is great, but I just can’t read punny humor continuously.
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Posted April 20, 2010
I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I first read the Eyre Affair for my Literature class and I fell in love with it; so I had to get the second book in the series. I'm starting the third book in the series now!!!!!! Jasper Fforde is a genius!!!!!!
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Posted August 1, 2009
The Thursday Next series is great for anyone who loves literature, adventure, detective, British humor, etc. A great read!
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Posted March 9, 2009
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Posted September 21, 2008
Very enjoyable book with a good mix of fun and danger. An unusual cast of characters with great names that will make you laugh. It is a fun trip through the past, present and future with all sorts of quirky adventures along the way. I am listening to this book on book tape, and the narrator has truly caught the personality of Thursday Next. What a great concept - to travel through books.
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Posted June 19, 2014
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Posted November 7, 2006
Jasper Fforde has once again blown me away with his creative mind and entirely original plot. The Thursday Next Novels are awesome reads and they will keep you on your toes and begging for more. It's fun to read about the classics that we have all read and loved and be able to explore them in more detail. I personally didn't like Lost in a Good Book quite as much as I did the Eyre Affair, but that's mainly because I love being introduced to characters for the first time. It is still a very entertaining novel and Fforde's inventiveness is almost frighteningly blatant.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2005
I find Jasper Ffordes sense of humor absolutely refreshing. ITs quirky and very unique. His imagination is absolutely remarkable. This book was my favorite in the series for the creativity. This book is perfect for a book lover, and a great way to get people into loving the classics.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 30, 2004
Posted November 3, 2004
You know, I really wanted to like this book. When I first heard about it, I was told it was a cross between absurd humor, which I love, and Harry Potter. Unfortunately, it seems that the author is trying to be humorous and insanely funny .... but just misses the mark. I've found much better books elsewhere, but if you like your books a little different while still conforming to standard forms of writing, go ahead wand read this book.
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Posted March 15, 2004
In some ways, this book is more inventive and carefree than the author's first book, The Eyre Affair. But it is just as fun to read and humorous as the previous. I absolutely love Miss Havisham and the Chesire Cat- or rather the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat (read it for more about that). This parallel universe is so wacky, illogical, and hilarious that I could not help from laughing out loud. Lost in a Good Book is a wonderful read that does what a book is supposed to do- transport the reader to a different place and time. Now I just need to read Kafka's The Trial to understand a part of it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 9, 2004
It is difficult to explain a Jasper Fforde book to someone else, but if you say, 'Thursday Next' in a room full of people you may soon find a person or two who instantly knows what you're talking about. Quirky is the best term I can find for his books. It takes place in an alternate reality where science and unscience exist. A place where the big bad corporate guys rule, but they just can't seem to outsmart a low level government worker by the name of Thursday Next. Whether you are a male or female, you find something comfortable about her. She isn't too smart, too suave, or too safe. She just gets the job done as she slips into a good book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 21, 2004
Jasper Fforde has written some of the most original and entertaining books I have ever read. It is a quasi-supernatural detective thriller with bits of the absurd thrown in for good measure. Thursday Next's uncle's inventions alone make it a good read :) Definately read 'The Eyre Affair' first, or this book will make less sense. And once you've finished those two, hang on...'The Well of Lost Plots' hits bookstores soon!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 4, 2003
At times I thought the Eyre Affair was too cute with too many oddities thrown in for a giggle's sake - a villain named Acheron Hades for instance. The second book, however, is a stunner. Now you definitely should read the first book first - there are too many things which will be puzzling without the grounding of the Eyre Affair. But Lost in A Good Book is so very very good (and The Eyre Affair attains excellence on my second read so it may have just been me) that I urge you to rush to your nearest store and purchase both. ----Both books are set in an alternate reality in which literature is an overriding passion of most people. Imagine soccer riots and you capture the intensity of the Shakespeare-Marlowe-Bacon-Oxford debates. Our heroine, Thursday Next, is a SpecOps 27, a member of the literary police. She is embroiled in defending herself (in a riotous Trial a la Kafka) on charges of having changed the ending to Jane Eyre (previous book) but also becoming an instant pop star beseiged for photo ops/promotions of dubious products/training videos for the same cause. ---Thursday loses her husband, jumps into literature, meets the Cheshire (now Unitary Authority of Warrington) Cat, begins training for Jurisfiction under Miss Havisham, protects her pet dodo and her egg, and in general, tries to set things to right and keep the Hades family and Goliath Corp. at bay. Encountered in the book are migrating woolly mammoths, artistic neanderthals, and a horrid pink slime which will be the end of earth unless Thursday can figure out who is responsible and change the time line. ----There is no way a review could ever do justice to the creativity and fun encompassed in Lost in a Good Book. I avidly await the third book which the author has promised that he has finished. Kudos to Jasper Fforde for a most intriguing, delightful set of books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.