About the Author
From the author of THE CHRONICLES OF KAZAM series, including The Last Dragonslayer
Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out of the window and arranging words on a page. He lives and writes in Wales. The Eyre Affair was his first novel in the bestselling series of Thursday Next series novels, which includes Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, and the upcoming The Woman Who Died A Lot. He is also the author of The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear of the Nursery Crime series, and Shades of Grey. More recently Fforde's work includes The Last Dragonslayer, The Chronicles of Kazam series. Visit jasperfforde.com.
Hometown:Brecon, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom
Date of Birth:January 11, 1961
Place of Birth:London, United Kingdom
Education:Left school at 18
Read an Excerpt
A Woman Named
". . . The Special Operations Network was instigated to handle policing duties considered either too unusual or too specialized to be tackled by the regular force. There were thirty departments in all, starting at the more mundane Neighborly Disputes (SO-30) and going onto Literary Detectives (SO-27) and Art Crime (SO-24). Anything below SO-20 was restricted information, although it was common knowledge that the ChronoGuard was SO-12 and Antiterrorism SO-9. It is rumored that SO-1 was the department that polices the SpecOps themselves. Quite what the others do is anyone's guess. What is known is that the individual operatives themselves are mostly ex-military or ex-police and slightly unbalanced. "If you want to be a SpecOp," the saying goes, "act kinda weird . . ."
MILLION DE FLOSS
-A Short History of the Special Operations Network
My father had a face that could stop a clock. I don't mean that he was ugly or anything; it was a phrase the ChronoGuard used to describe someone who had the power to reduce time to an ultraslow trickle. Dad had been a colonel in the ChronoGuard and kept his work very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that we didn't know he had gone rogue at all until his timekeeping buddies raided our house one morning clutching a Seize & Eradication order open-dated at both ends and demanding to know where and when he was. Dad had remained at liberty ever since; we learned from his subsequent visits that he regarded the whole service as "morally and historically corrupt" and was fighting a one-man war against the bureaucrats within the Office for Special Temporal Stability. I didn't know what he meant by that and still don't; I just hoped he knew what he was doing and didn't come to any harm doing it. His skills at stopping the clock were hard-earned and irreversible: He was now a lonely itinerant in time, belonging to not one age but to all of them and having no home other than the chronoclastic ether.
I wasn't a member of the ChronoGuard. I never wanted to be. By all accounts it's not a huge barrel of laughs, although the pay is good and the service boasts a retirement plan that is second to none: a one-way ticket to anywhere and anywhen you want. No, that wasn't for me. I was what we called an "operative grade I" for SO-27, the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network based in London. It's way less flash than it sounds. Since 1980 the big criminal gangs had moved in on the lucrative literary market and we had much to do and few funds to do it with. I worked under Area Chief Boswell, a small, puffy man who looked like a bag of flour with arms and legs. He lived and breathed the job; words were his life and his love-he never seemed happier than when he was on the trail of a counterfeit Coleridge or a fake Fielding. It was under Boswell that we arrested the gang who were stealing and selling Samuel Johnson first editions; on another occasion we uncovered an attempt to authenticate a flagrantly unrealistic version of Shakespeare's lost work, Cardenio. Fun while it lasted, but only small islands of excitement among the ocean of day-to-day mundanities that is SO-27: We spent most of our time dealing with illegal traders, copyright infringements and fraud.
I had been with Boswell and SO-27 for eight years, living in a Maida Vale apartment with Pickwick, a regenerated pet dodo left over from the days when reverse extinction was all the rage and you could buy home cloning kits over the counter. I was keen-no, I was desperate-to get away from the LiteraTecs but transfers were unheard of and promotion a nonstarter. The only way I was going to make full inspector was if my immediate superior moved on or out. But it never happened; Inspector Turner's hope to marry a wealthy Mr. Right and leave the service stayed just that-a hope-as so often Mr. Right turned out to be either Mr. Liar, Mr. Drunk or Mr. Already Married.
As I said earlier, my father had a face that could stop a clock; and that's exactly what happened one spring morning as I was having a sandwich in a small cafŽ not far from work. The world flickered, shuddered and stopped. The proprietor of the cafŽ froze in midsentence and the picture on the television stopped dead. Outside, birds hung motionless in the sky. Cars and trams halted in the streets and a cyclist involved in an accident stopped in midair, the look of fear frozen on his face as he paused two feet from the hard asphalt. The sound halted too, replaced by a dull snapshot of a hum, the world's noise at that moment in time paused indefinitely at the same pitch and volume.
"How's my gorgeous daughter?"
I turned. My father was sitting at a table and rose to hug me affectionately.
"I'm good," I replied, returning his hug tightly. "How's my favorite father?"
"Can't complain. Time is a fine physician."
I stared at him for a moment.
"Y'know," I muttered, "I think you're looking younger every time I see you."
"I am. Any grandchildren in the offing?"
"The way I'm going? Not ever."
My father smiled and raised an eyebrow.
"I wouldn't say that quite yet."
He handed me a Woolworths bag.
"I was in '78 recently," he announced. "I brought you this."
He handed me a single by the Beatles. I didn't recognize the title.
"Didn't they split in '70?"
"Not always. How are things?"
"Same as ever. Authentications, copyright, theft-"
"-same old shit?"
"Yup." I nodded. "Same old shit. What brings you here?"
"I went to see your mother three weeks ahead your time," he answered, consulting the large chronograph on his wrist. "Just the usual-ahem-reason. She's going to paint the bedroom mauve in a week's time-will you have a word and dissuade her? It doesn't match the curtains."
"How is she?"
He sighed deeply.
"Radiant, as always. Mycroft and Polly would like to be remembered too."
They were my aunt and uncle; I loved them deeply, although both were mad as pants. I regretted not seeing Mycroft most of all. I hadn't returned to my hometown for many years and I didn't see my family as often as I should.
"Your mother and I think it might be a good idea for you to come home for a bit. She thinks you take work a little too seriously."
"That's a bit rich, Dad, coming from you."
"Ouch-that-hurt. How's your history?"
"Do you know how the Duke of Wellington died?"
"Sure," I answered. "He was shot by a French sniper during the opening stages of the Battle of Waterloo. Why?"
"Oh, no reason," muttered my father with feigned innocence, scribbling in a small notebook. He paused for a moment.
"So Napoleon won at Waterloo, did he?" he asked slowly and with great intensity.
"Of course not," I replied. "Field Marshal BlŸcher's timely intervention saved the day."
I narrowed my eyes.
"This is all O-level history, Dad. What are you up to?"
"Well, it's a bit of a coincidence, wouldn't you say?"
"Nelson and Wellington, two great English national heroes both being shot early on during their most important and decisive battles."
"What are you suggesting?"
"That French revisionists might be involved."
"But it didn't affect the outcome of either battle," I asserted. "We still won on both occasions!"
"I never said they were good at it."
"That's ludicrous!" I scoffed. "I suppose you think the same revisionists had King Harold killed in 1066 to assist the Norman invasion!"
But Dad wasn't laughing. He replied with some surprise:
"Harold? Killed? How?"
"An arrow, Dad. In his eye."
"English or French?"
"History doesn't relate," I replied, annoyed at his bizarre line of questioning.
"In his eye, you say?- Time is out of joint," he muttered, scribbling another note.
"What's out of joint?" I asked, not quite hearing him.
"Nothing, nothing. Good job I was born to set it right-"
"Hamlet?" I asked, recognizing the quotation.
He ignored me, finished writing and snapped the notebook shut, then placed his fingertips on his temples and rubbed them absently for a moment. The world joggled forward a second and refroze as he did so. He looked about nervously.
"They're onto me. Thanks for your help, Sweetpea. When you see your mother, tell her she makes the torches burn brighter-and don't forget to try and dissuade her from painting the bedroom."
"Any color but mauve, right?"
He smiled at me and touched my face. I felt my eyes moisten; these visits were all too short. He sensed my sadness and smiled the sort of smile any child would want to receive from their father. Then he spoke:
"For I dipped into the past, far as SpecOps-12 could see-"
He paused and I finished the quote, part of an old ChronoGuard song Dad used to sing to me when I was a child.
"-saw a vision of the world and all the options there could be!"
And then he was gone. The world rippled as the clock started again. The barman finished his sentence, the birds flew onto their nests, the television came back on with a nauseating ad for SmileyBurgers, and over the road the cyclist met the asphalt with a thud.
Everything carried on as normal. No one except myself had seen Dad come or go.
I ordered a crab sandwich and munched on it absently while sipping from a mocha that seemed to be taking an age to cool down. There weren't a lot of customers and Stanford, the owner, was busy washing up some cups. I put down my paper to watch the TV when the Toad News Network logo came up.
Toad News was the biggest news network in Europe. Run by the Goliath Corporation, it was a twenty-four-hour service with up-to-date reports that the national news services couldn't possibly hope to match. Goliath gave it finance and stability, but also a slightly suspicious air. No one liked the Corporation's pernicious hold on the nation, and the Toad News Network received more than its fair share of criticism, despite repeated denials that the parent company called the shots.
"This," boomed the announcer above the swirling music, "is the Toad News Network. The Toad, bringing you News Global, News Updates, News NOW!"
The lights came up on the anchorwoman, who smiled into the camera.
"This is the midday news on Monday, May 6, 1985, and this is Alexandria Belfridge reading it. The Crimean Peninsula," she announced, "has again come under scrutiny this week as the United Nations passed resolution PN17296, insisting that England and the Imperial Russian Government open negotiations concerning sovereignty. As the Crimean War enters its one hundred and thirty-first year, pressure groups both at home and abroad are pushing for a peaceful end to hostilities."
I closed my eyes and groaned quietly to myself. I had been out there doing my patriotic duty in '73 and had seen the truth of warfare beyond the pomp and glory for myself. The heat, the cold, the fear, the death. The announcer spoke on, her voice edged with jingoism.
"When the English forces ejected the Russians from their last toehold on the peninsula in 1975, it was seen as a major triumph against overwhelming odds. However, a state of deadlock has been maintained since those days and the country's mood was summed up last week by Sir Gordon Duff-Rolecks at an antiwar rally in Trafalgar Square."
The program cut to some footage of a large and mainly peaceful demonstration in central London. Duff-Rolecks was standing on a podium and giving a speech in front of a large and untidy nest of microphones.
"What began as an excuse to curb Russia's expansionism in 1854," intoned the MP, "has collapsed over the years into nothing more than an exercise to maintain the nation's pride . . ."
But I wasn't listening. I'd heard it all before a zillion times. I took another sip of coffee as sweat prickled my scalp. The TV showed stock footage of the peninsula as Duff-Rolecks spoke: Sebastopol, a heavily fortified English garrison town with little remaining of its architectural and historical heritage. Whenever I saw these pictures the smell of cordite and the crack of exploding shells filled my head. I instinctively stroked the only outward mark from the campaign I had-a small raised scar on my chin. Others had not been so lucky. Nothing had changed. The war had ground on.
"It's all bullshit, Thursday," said a gravelly voice close at hand.
It was Stanford, the cafŽ owner. Like me he was a veteran of the Crimea, but from an earlier campaign. Unlike me he had lost more than just his innocence and some good friends; he lumbered around on two tin legs and still had enough shrapnel in his body to make half a dozen baked bean tins.
"The Crimea has got sod all to do with the United Nations."
He liked to talk about the Crimea with me despite our opposing views. No one else really wanted to. Soldiers involved in the ongoing dispute with Wales had more kudos; Crimean personnel on leave usually left their uniforms in the wardrobe.
"I suppose not," I replied noncommittally, staring out of the window to where I could see a Crimean veteran begging at a street corner, reciting Longfellow from memory for a couple of pennies.
"Makes all those lives seem wasted if we give it back now," added Stanford gruffly. "We've been there since 1854. It belongs to us. You might as well say we should give the Isle of Wight back to the French."
"We did give the Isle of Wight back to the French," I replied patiently; Stanford's grasp of current affairs was generally confined to first division croquet and the love life of actress Lola Vavoom.
"Oh yes," he muttered, brow knitted. "We did, didn't we? Well, we shouldn't have. And who do the UN think they are?"
"I don't know but if the killing stops they've got my vote, Stan."
The barkeeper shook his head sadly as Duff-Rolecks concluded his speech:
". . . there can be little doubt that the Czar Romanov Alexei IV does have overwhelming rights to sovereignty of the peninsula and I for one look forward to the day when we can withdraw our troops from what can only be described as an incalculable waste of human life and resources."
The Toad News anchorwoman came back on and moved to another item-the government was to raise the duty on cheese to 83 percent, an unpopular move that would doubtless have the more militant citizens picketing cheese shops.
"The Ruskies could stop it tomorrow if they pulled out!" said Stanford belligerently.
It wasn't an argument and he and I both knew it. There was nothing left of the peninsula that would be worth owning whoever won. The only stretch of land that hadn't been churned to a pulp by artillery bombardment was heavily mined. Historically and morally the Crimea belonged to Imperial Russia; that was all there was to it.
The next news item was about a border skirmish with the People's Republic of Wales; no one hurt, just a few shots exchanged across the River Wye near Hay. Typically rambunctious, the youthful president-for-life Owain Glyndwr VII had blamed England's imperialist yearnings for a unified Britain; equally typically, Parliament had not so much as even made a statement about the incident. The news ground on, but I wasn't really paying attention. A new fusion plant had opened in Dungeness and the president had been there to open it. He grinned dutifully as the flashbulbs went off. I returned to my paper and read a story about a parliamentary bill to remove the dodo's protected species status after their staggering increase in numbers; but I couldn't concentrate. The Crimea had filled my mind with its unwelcome memories. It was lucky for me that my pager bleeped and brought with it a much-needed reality check. I tossed a few notes on the counter and sprinted out of the door as the Toad News anchorwoman somberly announced that a young surrealist had been killed-stabbed to death by a gang adhering to a radical school of French impressionists.
". . . 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. Myself, I do not worry about such trivialities. I simply sell ties to anyone who wants to buy one . . ."
Tie seller in Victoria, June 1983
My pager had delivered a disconcerting message; the unstealable had just been stolen. It was not the first time the Martin Chuzzlewit manuscript had been purloined. Two years before it had been removed from its case by a security man who wanted nothing more than to read the book in its pure and unsullied state. Unable to live with himself or decipher Dickens's handwriting past the third page, he eventually confessed and the manuscript was recovered. He spent five years sweating over lime kilns on the edge of Dartmoor.
Gad's Hill Palace was where Charles Dickens lived at the end of his life, but not where he wrote Chuzzlewit. That was at Devonshire Terrace, when he still lived with his first wife, in 1843. Gad's Hill is a large Victorian building near Rochester which had fine views of the Medway when Dickens bought it. If you screw up your eyes and ignore the oil refinery, heavy water plant and the ExcoMat containment facility, it's not too hard to see what drew him to this part of England. Several thousand visitors pass through Gad's Hill every day, making it the third-most popular area of literary pilgrimage after Anne Hathaway's cottage and the Bront‘s' Haworth House. Such huge numbers of people had created enormous security problems; no one was taking any chances since a deranged individual had broken into Chawton, threatening to destroy all Jane Austen's letters unless his frankly dull and uneven Austen biography was published. On that occasion no damage had been done, but it was a grim portent of things to come. In Dublin the following year an organized gang attempted to hold Jonathan Swift's papers to ransom. A protracted siege developed that ended with two of the extortionists shot dead and the destruction of several original political pamphlets and an early draft of Gulliver's Travels. The inevitable had to happen. Literary relics were placed under bullet-proof glass and guarded by electronic surveillance and armed officers. It was not the way anyone wanted it, but it seemed the only answer. Since those days there had been few major problems, which made the theft of Chuzzlewit all the more remarkable.
I parked my car, clipped my SO-27 badge into my top pocket and pushed my way through the crowds of pressmen and gawkers. I saw Boswell from a distance and ducked under a police line to reach him.
"Good morning, sir," I muttered. "I came as soon as I heard."
He put a finger to his lips and whispered in my ear:
"Ground-floor window. Took less than ten minutes. Nothing else."
Then I saw. Toad News Network's star reporter Lydia Startright was about to do an interview. The finely coiffured TV journalist finished her introduction and turned to us both. Boswell employed a neat sidestep, jabbed me playfully in the ribs and left me alone under the full glare of the news cameras.
"-of Martin Chuzzlewit, stolen from the Dickens Museum at Gad's Hill. I have with me Literary Detective Thursday Next. Tell me, Officer, how it was possible for thieves to break in and steal one of literature's greatest treasures?"
I murmured "bastard!" under my breath to Boswell, who slunk off shaking with mirth. I shifted my weight uneasily. With the enthusiasm for art and literature in the population undiminished, the LiteraTec's job was becoming increasingly difficult, made worse by a very limited budget.
"The thieves gained entrance through a window on the ground floor and went straight to the manuscript," I said in my best TV voice. "They were in and out within ten minutes."
"I understand the museum was monitored by closed-circuit television," continued Lydia. "Did you capture the thieves on video?"
"Our inquiries are proceeding," I replied. "You understand that some details must be kept secret for operational purposes."
Lydia lowered her microphone and cut the camera.
"Do you have anything to give me, Thursday?" she asked. "The parrot stuff I can get from anyone."
"I've only just got here, Lyds. Try me again in a week."
"Thursday, in a week this will be archive footage. Okay, roll VT."
The cameraman reshouldered his camera and Lydia resumed her report.
"Do you have any leads?"
"There are several avenues that we are pursuing. We are confident that we can return the manuscript to the museum and arrest the individuals concerned."
I wished I could share my own optimism. I had spent a lot of time at Gad's Hill overseeing security arrangements, and I knew it was like the Bank of England. The people who did this were good. Really good. It also made it kind of personal. The interview ended and I ducked under a SpecOps do not cross tape to where Boswell was waiting to meet me.
"This is one hell of a mess, Thursday. Turner, fill her in."
Boswell left us to it and went off to find something to eat.
"If you can see how they pulled this one off," murmured Paige who was a slightly older and female version of Boswell, "I'll eat my boots, buckles and all."
Both Turner and Boswell had been at the LiteraTec department when I turned up there, fresh from the military and a short career at the Swindon Police Department. Few people ever left the LiteraTec division; when you were in London you had pretty much reached the top of your profession. Promotion or death were the usual ways out; the saying was that a LiteraTec job wasn't for Christmas-it was for life.
"Boswell likes you, Thursday."
"In what sort of way?" I asked suspiciously.
"In the sort of way that he wants you in my shoes when I leave-I became engaged to a rather nice fellow from SO-3 at the weekend."
I should have been more enthusiastic, but Turner had been engaged so many times she could have filled every finger and toe-twice.
"SO-3?" I queried, somewhat inquisitively. Being in SpecOps was no guarantee you would know which departments did what-Joe Public were probably better informed. The only SpecOps divisions I knew about for sure below SO-12 were SO-9, who were Antiterrorist, and SO-1, who were Internal Affairs-the SpecOps police; the people who made sure we didn't step out of line.
"SO-3?" I repeated. "What do they do?"
"I thought SO-2 did Weird Stuff?"
"SO-2 do Weirder Stuff. I asked him but he never got around to answering-we were kind of busy. Look at this."
Turner had led me into the manuscript room. The glass case that had held the leather-bound manuscript was empty.
"Anything?" Paige asked one of the scene-of-crime officers.
"Gloves?" I asked.
The SOCO stood up and stretched her back; she hadn't discovered a single print of any sort.
"No; and that's what's so bizarre. It doesn't look like they touched the box at all; not with gloves, not a cloth-nothing. According to me this box hasn't been opened and the manuscript is still inside!"
I looked at the glass case. It was still locked tight and none of the other exhibits had been touched. The keys were kept separately and were at this moment on their way from London.
"Hello, that's odd-" I muttered, leaning closer.
"What do you see?" asked Paige anxiously.
I pointed to an area of glass on one of the side panels that undulated slightly. The area was roughly the size of the manuscript.
"I noticed that," said Paige. "I thought it was a flaw in the glass."
"Toughened bullet-proof glass?" I asked her. "No chance. And it wasn't like this when I supervised the fitting, I can assure you of that."
I stroked the hard glass and felt the shiny surface ripple beneath my fingertips. A shiver ran up my back and I felt a curious sense of uncomfortable familiarity, the feeling you might get when a long-forgotten school bully hails you as an old friend.
"The work feels familiar, Paige. When I find the perpetrator, it'll be someone I know."
"You've been a LiteraTec for seven years, Thursday."
I saw what she meant.
"Eight years, and you're right-you'll probably know them too. Could Lamber Thwalts have done this?"
"He could have, if he wasn't still in the hokey-four years still to go over that Love's Labor's Won scam."
"What about Keens? He could handle something as big as this."
"Milton's no longer with us. Caught analepsy in the library at Parkhurst. Stone-cold dead in a fortnight."
I pointed at the two video cameras.
"Who did they see?"
"No one," replied Turner. "Not a dicky bird. I can play you the tapes but you'll be none the wiser."
She showed me what they had. The guard on duty was being interviewed back at the station. They were hoping it was an inside job but it didn't look like it; the guard had been as devastated as any of them.
Turner shuttled the video back and pressed the play button.
"Watch carefully. The recorder rotates the five cameras and films five seconds of each."
"So the longest gap between cameras is twenty seconds?"
"Got it. You watching? Okay, there's the manuscript-" She pointed at the book, clearly visible in the frame as the VCR flicked to the camera at the front door. There was no movement. Then the inside door through which any burglar would have to come; all the other entrances were barred. Then came the corridor; then the lobby; then the machine flicked back to the manuscript room. Turner punched the pause button and I leaned closer. The manuscript was gone.
"Twenty seconds to get in, open the box, take Chuzzlewit and then leg it? It's not possible."
"Believe you me, Thursday-it happened."
The last remark came from Boswell, who had been looking over my shoulder.
"I don't know how they did it, but they did. I've had a call from Supreme Commander Gale on this one and he's being leaned on by the prime minister. Questions have already been asked in the House and someone's head is going to roll. Not mine, I assure you."
He looked at us both rather pointedly, which made me feel especially ill at ease-I was the one who had advised the museum on its security arrangements.
"We'll be onto it straight away, sir," I replied, punching the pause button and letting the video run on. The views of the building changed rhythmically, revealing nothing. I pulled up a chair, rewound the tape and looked again.
"What are you hoping to find?" asked Paige.
I didn't find it.
From The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Copyright © February 2002, Viking Press, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
"[Thursday Next is] part Bridget Jones, part Nancy Drew, and part Dirty Harry." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Neatly delivers alternate history, Monty Pythonesque comedy skits, Grand Guignol supervillains, thwarted lovers, po-mo intertextuality, political commentary, time travel, vampires, absent-minded inventors, a hard-boiled narrator, and lots, lots more.... Suspend your disbelief, find a quiet corner and just surrender to the storytelling voice of the unstoppable, ever-resourceful Thursday Next." —The Washington Post
"Fforde's imaginative novel will satiate readers looking for a Harry Potter-esque tale.... The Eyre Affair's literary wonderland recalls Douglas Adams's Hitchhikers series, the works of Lewis Carroll and Woody Allen's The Kugelmass Episode." —USA Today
"Filled with clever wordplay, literary allusion and bibliowit, The Eyre Affair combines elements of Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but its quirky charm is all its own." —The Wall Street Journal
"Jasper Fforde's first novel, The Eyre Affair, is a spirited sendup of genre fiction—it's part hardboiled mystery, part time-machine caper—that features a sassy, well-read 'Special Operative in literary detection' named Thursday Next, who will put you more in mind of Bridget Jones than Miss Marple. Fforde delivers almost every sentence with a sly wink, and he's got an easy way with wordplay, trivia, and inside jokes.... Fforde's verve is rarely less than infectious." —The New York Times Book Review
"[Fforde] delivers multiple plot twists, rampant literary references and streams of wild metafictional invention in a novel that places literature at the center of the pop-cultural universe.... It all adds up to a brainy, cheerfully twisted adventure." —Time Out New York
"[The Eyre Affair] is a blend of suspense and silliness, two parts fantasy (think Alice in Wonderland meets Superman), two parts absurdity (think Carl Hiaasen) and one part mystery (Agatha Christie meets Sue Grafton)." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Reading Group Guide
Our Book Club Recommendation
Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is almost proudly overstuffed with ideas, jokes, and twists. The novel, tailor-made for book lovers with a sense of humor, is roughly one part action thriller, one part eccentric comedy routine, and one part science fiction/fantasy grab bag -- all seasoned with a suitably outrageous treatment of every book you ever failed to read in high school English class. It's a perfect choice for book groups interested in revisiting the classics, as Fforde's irreverent love of literature becomes infectious.
The Eyre Affair proceeds from a simple enough question: What would a world be like where great literature was as popular as television and movies are in ours? Fforde comes up with a universe that takes everything you've ever read and turns it upside down. In his England, Shakespearean scholars are superstars, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen have more fans than the latest boy band, and a whole unit of Britain's top-secret police force, SpecOps, is devoted to keeping people from tampering with the classics.
Fforde's heroine, LiteraTec-Inspector Thursday Next, traces an evil villain, fights off a corrupt corporation, and winds up rewriting the plot of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (making sure along the way that the title character gets her man). While the plot keeps the pages turning, the delights for reading groups in this book come from the details, from sharing the task of spotting Fforde's clever inventions and hidden jests. It's not just the literary stuff, either -- in Thursday's world, cloning has become ordinary (dodos are brought back from extinction to serve as house pets) and time-travel is a constant social problem with unpredictable results. The Alice-in-Wonderland quality of Fforde's imagination is matched by his distinctly Lewis Carrolllike sense of humor.
Throughout this very whimsical book, though, there runs one serious theme: the absolute pleasure that comes from reading. In this regard, The Eyre Affair bursts with reading suggestions for book clubs to debate. While The Eyre Affair's book-centric universe is a far cry from our own, reading groups may well find themselves inspired to lose themselves (like an unfortunate character of Fforde's) in a Wordsworth poem, or perhaps to follow Thursday Next between the pages of Charlotte Brontë's masterpiece. Bill Tipper
An Introduction from the Publisher
"My pager had delivered a disconcerting message; the unstealable had just been stolen." -- The Eyre Affair by Jasper FfordeMasterpiece Theatre meets James Bond in The Eyre Affair, the first novel in Jasper Fforde's cheeky sleuth series featuring a book-loving, gun-toting, wit-slinging heroine named Thursday Next. In Thursday's world, an alternate version of 1985 London, literature rules popular culture -- audiences enact and participate in Richard III for Friday-night fun, thousands of visitors make literary pilgrimages to gawk at original manuscripts, and missionaries travel door-to-door heralding Francis Bacon as the true Bard.
Thursday leads a fairly quiet life as a detective in the literary division of the Special Operations Network, investigating low-profile cases such as forgeries and thefts. But she's no stranger to the extraordinary -- her father, a man whose name she has never known, was erased from existence after he deserted his position with the SpecOps ChronoGuard time-travel police. Her Uncle Mycroft is an eccentric genius who uses his wife, Polly, and Thursday as guinea pigs for his many fantastic inventions, including the Prose Portal, an ingenious device that allows readers to physically enter the world of any book.
The mysterious theft of the Martin Chuzzlewit original manuscript from the Dickens Museum catalyzes Thursday's transformation from humble library cop into intrepid literature savior. When Thursday's Uncle Mycroft and Aunt Polly are kidnapped along with the Prose Portal, the SpecOps literary division uncovers a dastardly plot to kidnap and murder characters from everyone's favorite novels. The criminal operation is helmed by Acheron Hades, the third most evil man in the world, a supreme villain who bends minds, shifts shapes, and remains impervious to most mortal weapons. Thursday and her SpecOps cohorts' mission to capture their slippery adversary is further complicated by the meddling of the pointedly named Jack Schitt, the despotic head of security at the hegemonic Goliath Corporation, whose investment in Hades' capture seems suspect. And when the perpetrators dare to steal the original Jane Eyre, Thursday must race to save one of the most beloved characters in English literature -- and Brontë's classic love story itself -- from eradication.
Fforde employs time travel and book jumping to illustrate the infinite possibilities of alternate endings. As the walls between fiction and reality begin to break down, Thursday and the characters of Jane Eyre fight to shield each other from Acheron Hades' wrath. But even in a world where time and reality are elastic, Thursday must still face the consequences of her own past when she returns to her hometown to find her fellow Crimean War veteran and one true love, the one-legged Landen Parke-Laine, still waiting for reconciliation.
With witty wordplay and a colorful cast of characters, Fforde manages to sneak plenty of bibliophile inside jokes into his jaunty prose without falling into pedantry. Fforde gently pokes fun at canonical literature's highbrow status and reminds readers that the classics are not just regal old chestnuts for decorating the bookshelves; they are living, breathing tales that remain as exhilarating and vibrant as they were when they were first released.
Questions for the author:
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.Much as I would like to claim either as the truth, sadly not. The real influence is 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?
Juliet: What must be must be.
Friar Lawrence: Now there's a certain text.
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 the world of The Eyre Affair, 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 was 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 were 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 those type of "literary" classics. 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 Travels is another firm favorite, as is Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody.
What other classics' backstories can we look forward to reading in Thursday's future?
Great Expectations will be up for a bit of hocus-pocus in book two, Lost in a Good Book, when Miss Havisham turns out to be an agent for Jurisfiction, the policing agency that exists inside books. When the Cheshire Cat tells Thursday she will be apprenticed to Miss Havisham, he adds: "You'll be fine -- just don't mention the wedding." Book two also has adventures within Kafka's The Trial and Poe's The Raven. In book three we visit a rage-counseling session in Wuthering Heights, and meet a disgruntled Lucy Deane, from Mill on the Floss, with murder on her mind.
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 can do pretty much what I want and not have to worry about copyright problems -- given the premise of the novel, something that has to remain a consideration!
The Eyre Affair has been described as a sort of Harry Potter 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 them 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 lightshow. 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 occasion 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 is comprised of five boys: Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, Cocytus, 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 half hearted 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 The Eyre Affair. 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 was a great success, and I'm sure your fans will make a success of its follow-up, Lost in a Good Book. 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 Castle Blanding -- what could be better or more amusing?
1. If you could jump right into any novel with Ms. Nakajima, which novel would you choose to visit? What classic novel endings have left you unsatisfied? What endings would you change if you had the power to do so?
2. Acheron Hades claims that pure evil is as rare as pure good. Do you think either exists in our world?
3. Two of the main plot devices -- time travel and book jumping -- illustrate the infinite possibilities of alternate endings. If you could travel through time, is there anything in history, either in the broad sense or in your own personal history, that you would go back and revise?
4. If you could choose either Ms. Nakajima's ability to jump into novels, Thursday's father's ability to travel through time, or Acheron Hades' ability to defy mortality, which power would you choose to have and why?
5. Despite the fact that he is her one true love, Thursday holds a grudge against Landen Parke-Laine for over ten years because he betrayed her brother when they returned from the Crimean War. Who do you think Thursday's first allegiance should have been? Her lover or her brother? Do you think her decision to return to Landen comes out of weakness or strength?
6. In the hands of villains like Jack Schitt and Acheron Hades, the Prose Portal could be exploited for villainous deeds, but it could also have been used to do good deeds such as producing a cure for terminal diseases. Would you choose to destroy the Prose Portal as Mycroft does without trying to extract good use out of it first? Do you think the risk of the destruction it could cause outweighs the possibilities for good?
7. Thursday's brother, the very Irreverend Joffy, tells her, "The first casualty of war is always truth." Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
8. Thursday says, "All my life I have felt destiny tugging at my sleeve. Few of us have any real idea what it is we are here to do and when it is that we are to do it. Every small act has a knock-on consequence that goes on to affect those about us in unseen ways. I was lucky that I had so clear a purpose." In a world where time is so pliable, can there be such a thing as destiny? Was there a defining moment in your life where you understood what your own purpose was? 9. Who is the worse villain, Acheron Hades or Jack Schitt? Which sentence do you think is worse -- death by a silver bullet to the heart or an eternity trapped in Poe's The Raven?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I first picked up The Eyre Affair, I had no idea what to expect, other than friends saying I would love it. Well, they were right! Jasper Fforde creates this amazing world of a very strange 1980's England, where the door-to-door proselytizers are Baconians, trying to convince you that it was Francis Bacon who was responsible for the works under "his pen name", Shakespeare. Oh, and time travel is a matter of fact, the Crimean War is still being waged, and dirigibles are the way to travel the sky! The story woven in, around, and because of this world had me hooked pretty quickly. Mixing my knowledge of literature with this topsy-turvy world of literary detectives, Fforde captures the imagination and doesn't let it go! Before I finished reading it, I went and bought all of his other works. It's become the first book I suggest and the one that I haven't stopped talking about yet! Go read it!
When I first heard about this book, I was intriqued by the plot concept. I have so many books that I have unread at home but the plotline was compelling me to buy yet another book. I absolutely love Jane Eyre and had actually just read about half of it prior to picking this book up. As I began to read this story I was amused and drawn to the characters first by their creative names and then by their quirkiness. I found the lead character Tuesday Next to be believeable and interesting so I had no problem moving right through the book at a quick pace. What I found the most amusing was the melding of science fiction, a bit of romance, fantasy and good ol humor mixing it up!If you are a fan of classic literature you will appreciate the story line. I would highly recommend this book. I think it would be a super fun book club selection when you get bogged down in serious literature. It was a breath of fresh air for me!
A wonderfully clever novel -- this is definitely something any lit-nerd out there should look into! Though I think Fforde could use some work on his pacing, ultimately his plot was inventive, funny and exciting and the world that he writes is extremely well-created. Thursday is engaging, and not too feminine-- male readers could also relate well to her, I'm assuming. I'm looking forward to picking up the next one in the series! Read my full review of this and other novels at: http://litelephant.wordpress.com
You have to be willing to go with the flow, because the time warps and twists in this series are imaginative. This is a book for readers -- the more literature you've read, the more you'll appreciate the humor that other readers won't even notice. Some events are shocking, as you get lulled into thinking this is a light comedy of errors. It has the feel of a show ride in Disneyland .... lots of wonder, some thrills, and a few laughs as well.
The "genre" for this book is near unclassifiable. It has much that Science Fiction fams will enjoy, but then its fun increases for those well read in "literature". Equally some of it is fun in the best possible sense of "silly" (I particularly liked the pet Dodo).
As with other loosely related stories that cover multiple books, you can read them out of order. However in this case I would recommend starting with this one - the first Thursday Next story. If you like it then you have the added pleasure of knowing there are more in store...
I guess "steampunk" means: time/ dimensional travel, revisions of history, Ministry of Magic-esque agencies, war vets, classical literature, jokes that only Shakespeare scholars (not even just your average Shakespeare nerds) get, extinct animal cloning, plot-heavy stories, and big baddies named after the river to the underworld (not THAT river, the OTHER river)...then I like steampunk. I picked this off a recommended reading list for the steampunk genre and - based on the crossover between this novel and my own personal tastes in (see above) everything, I opted that this would be my foray into contemporary steampunk lit. Truth be told, I started reading it in conjunction with HG Wells' Time Machine and flew through this one despite it being three times as long (or thereabouts) than Wells' classic novel. This book is perfect light reading (light and airy and plot-driven and witty) for the fan of classic literature AND time travel. I wrote on Goodreads that it reminds me A LOT of the SyFy television show "Warehouse 13" (no coincidence, I guess, that my signig other tells me that show is steampunk as well). Very entertaining. Love the mash-up-ness of it. I will hope to continue the Thursday Next series.
A fun and inventive story. I cant wait to read the next book in the series.
The Eyre Affair was a thrilling read and I must say thoroughly enjoyable, but it is not for those seeking a novel like Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This novel is not going to satisfy those that would like a good look at any of the characters. Rochester is focused on at times and is a pivotal character for the novel, but his personality seems a little out of character. The novel has little to do with Jane Eyre and when the book or the character herself is involved at all in this novel the reader can be left disappointed by the author's interruption of Jane's character. She has no fire and is not allowed to know that the world of the novel is being tampered with. But by the end of this novel, she is allowed to know what is going on and somehow it is fine that she knew then. This loophole has to be the most frustrating thing about the novel in general. Thursday Next¿s character is also questionable. Honestly there were many a time where it was hard to distinguish whether she was a female or not. Her gender ambiguity leaves the novel lackluster for many readers. It is like Fforde did not honestly know how to write from a female¿s perspective, or the case might actually be that he wanted the main character to be a male but the interaction with Rochester would not have been correct if Thursday was a male. In either case, Fforde needed to make up his mind and decide which gender Thursday should be. She can be a tomboy, that is fine, but there was just too much confusion there. To be honest, this novel is not for any person with a super critical eye who analyzes every detail of a novel. The book would drive a person like that crazy. But for a case of light reading the novel is quite good. Even if you do not know all the books referenced in the novel, it is fine because you will not be missing the meat of the storyline. And even with all my critical words on the novel I can assure you, I read it in a day¿s time and could not put it down. I enjoyed the wit and humor of the book even with the critical errors. So, for those looking for a novel that reminds them of Wide Sargasso Sea, avoid this novel. But if you are looking for an easy read for relaxing after a long day, this could quite be the book for you!
I liked this and I'm glad I read this--but I expected to love it, and I didn't and won't be reading more of Fforde. The book has a fantastic core premise: fictional characters can drop into the real world and intervene in lives; real people can drop into works of fiction and refashion the story. The heroine, Thursday Next, is a member of Special Operations 27--currently she's on the heels of a criminal mastermind who is murdering and kidnapping fictional characters--including the beloved Jane Eyre. This isn't the only narrative strand--the novel is set in an alternate universe where a lot of the history we know happened differently. (Time travel is a fact in this world and the timeline it seems continually tweaked by operatives.) In this novel the Crimean War has been going on for 131 years--Thursday is a veteran of that war and it pops up and intertwines in the plot in a clever way. There's also text-eating bookworms, extinct creatures brought back to life to be made into pets--like Thursday's dodo, productions of Richard III done a la The Rocky Horror Picture show and people debate questions of text and authorship with all the fervor of religious disputes. The book should be a bibliophile's dream with a wealth of literary allusion and word play--a blurb from <i>The Wall Street Journal</i> on the cover calls it a blend of "Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawkings and Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and maybe that's the problem for me. It's too manic--too many disparate elements thrown at me even if a great deal of the threads come together at the end. Maybe it's just that I can never quite disappear into this world. Harry Potter is easier. Believe that you can pass through a barrier at Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station into a world of witches and wizards and you're pretty OK from there. People still act like people. But a world where literature is cared about with such zeal is harder. I also don't feel parts are all that well-written. Almost all of <i>The Eyre Affair</i> is written in first person, but there are patches of third person and third-person like narration and it's not transitioned well. I remember a particularly clunky scene where Thursday talks about her encounter with her nemesis, Hades Archeron, and other parts of the narrative seem clumsy as well. It's an imaginative story, well-plotted, and I liked Thursday Next, the main narrator of the story. Yet somehow, I found too much of this novel a chore to read to recommend enthusiastically or want to follow more of Thursday's adventures.
This is a series that captures you completely from beginning to end. Jasper fforde has become my favorite writer, he is just brilliant. His love of literature and stories brings new life to reading. Such a whirlwind all of these books and a perfect balance.
Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair is a fun and exciting book that is loaded with literary allusions and action. What makes this book so exciting is the alternate reality that Fforde has created: time travels, re-created pet dodos, and jumping inside one’s favorite novel, or characters jumping out of their novels, are absolutely possible in the setting of The Eyre Affair. Following the action packed story of LiteraTec Detective Thursday Next of England’s Special Operations, the plot is propelled keeping a reader on their toes and dying to know what comes next. Fforde shows intricacy in the novel with the multitude of literary allusions he makes; so many, in fact, that one can’t possibly catch all of them in one read. This is a great aspect of the book because one can read the novel over and over again and find something new giving one a completely different experience. The book will never get boring! The only critique I have of the novel is the fairytale happy ending. There was so much action at the end of the novel it was great! But with that action there came an ending that to me seemed too good to be true. After ten years of not talking, Landen and Thursday just all of a sudden say “let’s get married?” That is very impractical and I feel like it was only thrown in so that the issue and drama of their relationship would be settled. It was as though at the end everything in the plot was closing, so Fforde felt he had to give closure to that too. It was almost like he ran out of ideas so he had the two get married. But it could be seen that just like after Rochester and Jane of Bronte’s Jane Eyre after a long separation still loved each other and were married, so also is the case for Thursday and Landen, even though it seems a little too fairytale.
Jasper Fforde’s novel, The Eyre Affair is an exciting and entertaining read. This book breaks the typical genre mold and creates it’s own fantasy-fiction realm that readers soon fall in love with. Perhaps the most exciting accomplishment within the novel is the fact that literary characters jump from the pages of their novel, and real life characters jump into the pages of literary texts. In this alternative realm time can stand still, cloning is common and literature is held at a much higher standard. The protagonist of the novel, the independent and dynamic, Thursday Next, is reminiscent of the famous Jane Eyre in Charlotte Bronte’s novel. Accordingly, the novel Thursday jumps into is actually Jane Eyre. Thursday’s character is likeable and she captures the reader’s attention. This novel has the reader closely examining each page to find any literary illusion Fforde has included and hidden within. One downfall however is the fact that starting the novel takes a bit of patience. It feels as though Fforde is constantly including literary references which overwhelms any reader who is not comfortable with a plethora of literature. Despite the rough beginning, The Eyre Affair calms down quite quickly and readers are able to enjoy the story. It can be considered a light, but interesting read. I enjoyed reading Fforde’s novel and recommend the book to anyone - especially a literature lover. I am truly excited to read the remaining books in Fforde’s Thursday Next series.
Many words can be used to describe Jasper Fforde¿s The Eyre Affair but dull is not one of them. The story is fast paced and totally off the wall wacky in its rampant implementation of time travel, to literary characters popping in and out of reality, and nearly countless genres thrown in between. Fforde walks the very fine line, and by very fine, read razor thin, between hilarious absurdist humor found novels such as Adam Douglas¿ Hithchhiker¿s Guide to the Galaxy and total hack wackiness flop-city found in your local college creative writing class. Sometimes he hits the perfect tone in this tight wire game, but all too often the jokes fall very flat and inevitably detract from what could have been an excellent story. The story stars Thursday Next, a pugnacious and spunky literary detective in an alternative 1985 tasked with identifying cases of literary fraud. In this world, England and Russia continue to fight the Crimean War after over one hundred years, time travel is not only possible, but commonplace, and literary characters and people alike can essentially come and go as they please between the real world and the novels the characters inhabit. After Thursday¿s archenemy Acheron Hades, a sort of Joker-esque super villain but not as funny, reappears strange things begin occurring in the world of literature. Characters begin disappearing and culminate with the kidnapping of Jane Eyre straight from the pages of her book. Thus Thursday is tasked with tracking down Hades, stopping his evil plot, and restoring Jane Eyre to its former glory. I found the book relatively enjoyable with its story being captivating and fun to read. The pacing employed by Fforde is excellent and never slows from start to finish. The problems arise with the multitude of references and genres Fforde attempted to fit in a relatively short story. The only way to describe the feeling of reading the novel is sheer reference claustrophobia. Too much is going on in the novel from the countless literary references, to the melding of several genres from romance to sci-fi and mystery that the story doesn¿t have a chance to flesh out any single aspect. To call this a mystery novel would show a serious lack of respect to the genre. From the second part of the novel onward it is fairly obvious what is going to happen, and it does. The romance aspect seems forced and fairly unbelievable and honestly doesn¿t belong in the novel at all. While the plot itself is great these side elements distract from it and the novel as a whole suffers. The child like sense of humor falls terribly flat with examples such as characters names being Jack Schitt and Paige Turner to name a few. I do recommend this book but very tentatively. Many people will be turned off by the aspects I¿ve discussed and will find it hard to slough them off without losing the story in the process. Fforde is an ambitious man, but with The Eyre Affair, he might be a bit too ambitious.
The Eyre Affair was nothing like I originally expected it to be. Considering it was assigned as a required book for one of my college English classes I didn¿t expect a science fiction detective story laced with many English references and funny wordplay, which is exactly what this book delivers. I thoroughly enjoyed The Eyre Affair, it was a quick read containing many different elements that I personally enjoy. There are numerous references to famous works of literature (the general society, belief systems, and names), time travel, werewolf and vampire hunting, romance, mystery, and just plain humor. I enjoyed the way the book contained so many different elements, but it may be difficult, confusing, or irritating to others who don¿t care to follow such a style. Due to the myriad number of references in this book some can get lost as well, but if you are willing to take the time to figure them out, or you are enough of a literary geek like myself to understand most of them, they are quite satisfying and humorous to read. Finally, with a title like The Eyre Affair there has to be some storyline involving the story of Jane Eyre right? Of course it does, however you don¿t actually get into the real meat of that story until about halfway through the book, which was surprising to me. When the narrative does start to involve the world of Jane Eyre, the book really takes off. The plot moves along at a fast pace that caused me to not want to put the book down. I found myself wanting to read more about the adventures of Thursday Next at the end of the novel, and was very pleased to see the book was part of a series. Overall, The Eyre Affair is a funny, fun read that can appeal to up and coming literature lovers as well as hold the attention for those who know the classics by heart.
This novel is about an alternate reality, time travel, literature characters coming to life, black holes, vampires, werewolves, Martin Chuzzlewit, Jane Eyre and plocking dodos. Though this lighthearted story can be enjoyable so long as you don¿t try to take it seriously, this isn¿t a novel I would give a second read. The alternate reality Fforde has created is fascinatingly imaginative, but his enthusiasm for it is one of the biggest problems with the novel. In an effort to show readers every aspect of Thursday Next¿s crazy, upside down world, the main plot is often put on the backburner in order to make room for a staggering number of side plots. These side plots usually take the story absolutely nowhere and can be dropped so quickly that it takes a while to realize that the story is never going to refer back to those moments ever again. Characters drop in and out of the story is a similar manner- so quickly that you either hardly realized they were there or are surprised to find out that they are also never mentioned again. The number of characters is just as staggering as the number of pointless side plots, and they are often hard to keep up with. It doesn¿t help that they all have unusual names intended to be punny or clever but that actually make them even more difficult to remember. Jane Eyre fans take note, the title of this book is very misleading. Jane herself plays no active role in this story, and Jane Eyre, the novel, is barely mentioned until the second half. When not going off on a random tangent, the first half of the story focuses on the theft of the original manuscript of Charles Dickens¿ book Martin Chuzzlewit and the threat posed to its main character. It isn¿t until much later that Thursday Next must enter the Jane Eyre story in order to protect it from the same man who stole Martin Chuzzlewit. So, if you were looking for a futuristic twist on the Jane Eyre story, this book is not for you. Despite its many drawbacks, this is still a entertaining book. If you can accept all the random twists, turns, characters and pointless moments and just enjoy the imaginative wackiness, you¿ll still have fun. Though it¿s not a book I plan on reading again, I don¿t at all regret reading it the first time.
Jasper Fforde¿s The Eyre Affair is easily one of the most refreshing novels I have had the chance to read this year. The plot is smart, yet not so mundane that it alienates itself from any particular audience. With a novel steeped in such classical literary figures Fforde could have easily gone overboard in his approach, but it is obvious that he doesn¿t take himself too seriously. Fforde is not trying to replicate the appeal of Jane Eyre or Dickens, but is instead simply paying homage to the greats. I find it to be a wonderful tribute to the great works that have shaped the literary world, and an interesting peek into a society that holds literature in such esteem. It¿s a successful balance of literary puns and suspense; a cooperative effort of hidden cameos and romance. To deconstruct The Eyre Affair for all that it doesn¿t do would really take away from all that it does accomplish. There is a question of how far Fforde¿s demographic reach really is, and a question of whether this novel belongs in the ¿young adult¿ section of bookstores. I believe that such black and white categorization isn¿t necessary or appropriate where The Eyre Affair is concerned. They way Fforde arranges the narrative, with time hopping epigraphs and descents into the classic text themselves, create a complexity that can keep any reader engaged. Although the plot unravels pretty quickly and the character development is somewhat shallow, it is easily redeemed by its sheer inventiveness. The idea of basing a novel around the inner-workings of the narrative itself is engaging and original.
As the title of this review suggests "The Eyre Affair" was a quick and easy read that was enjoyable. Jasper Fford kept me entertained from the first page to the last. He combined mystery/science fiction with a literary classic, and made them flow together. I never would have imagined that ¿Jane Eyre¿ could be a science fiction novel before. I enjoyed the characters and how some were named ironically. The plot, without giving too much away, is about a man named Hades who has stolen the original copy of Jane Eyre and plans to kill her unless Thursday Next and the SpecOps team gives him what he wants. The book was a fun read because I found myself thinking about it when I wasn¿t reading it, constantly wanting to know what was happening. The plot is a little tricky to grasp at first, and sometimes I had to go back and re-read the section that I missed. Even if you don¿t get all the literary references in the novel, it still will hold your attention. If you love "Jane Eyre", but would like to take a break from it, I would suggest this book for you.
One of my daughter's friends lent me her copy of this book the other week and she insisted that I read it. To be polite, I read it...and am sooo happy that I did! I've never read Jane Eyre before but after reading this, I'm dying to know the whole story....The Eyre Affair is a funny, engaging, and totally fun ride!! I loved how this story was incredibly thrilling and engaging, while not taking itself so seriously. Loved it!!
Can't wait to read the rest of the series.
Love this series
This is the first in series (and a subsequent "spin-off" series). All the books are fabulous. If you can suspend reality, and you love books, read Jasper Fforde!
To live it I think you have to be a true fan of sci go over fantasy.
What I love about books is the mystery and the suspense. I love meeting characters who are more complicated and have more depth than some people I know in real life. And I LOVE good writing. The Eyre Affair has it all. Jasper Fforde is a genius, mixing the elements of a contemporary fiction/mystery story with science fiction to create a world that is at once familiar and strikingly different. It took me a while to get adjusted to this new world, where the Crimean war still rages on, and where forging Byronic verse is a serious offense and literature and art are highly prized by all. However, after 30 pages, I was fully involved in the story, flipping pages almost faster than I could read. The characters are easy to relate to, and Thursday is everything I look for in a female protagonist. She’s funny, resourceful, and doesn’t let anybody boss her around or intimidate her. The fact that she seems to be way in over her head on this case makes it all the better. I like how she is forced to deal not only with hunting down a seemingly-invincible villain who has kidnapped her relatives and is about to change Martin Chuzzlewit and Jane Eyre forever, but also with her past and the death of her brother in the Crimean War. The only problem I had with The Eyre Affair is that the ending is wrapped up a little too perfectly a little too quickly. After all that happened before, it just didn’t work for me. I’m a fan of nicely tied-up endings, but I like them to be realistic. This is a book for book lovers (and who of us doesn’t love books?!). It makes more sense if you have some knowledge of history and classics in general, but it’s really not necessary. I definitely recommend giving The Eyre Affair a try.
More "cute" than clever, The Eyre Affair was a surprise letdown for me. Literate, intelligent friends with taste and judgment I admire recommended this novel to me in droves. It contains so many elements of something I ought to like, after all--strong female protagonist, literary references, Jane Eyre at its center, and whimsical imaginative touches in the creation of its world. But the writing. Oh, my god, the writing. "Pedestrian" would be a generous descriptive for quite a few of the passages. Never once did I forget that somewhere, some guy had deliberately chosen to put those words in that order ON HIS FINAL DRAFT. I kept wondering why an editor hadn't stopped him, hadn't demanded dialog with a little polish, or suspense scenes that didn't resolve with a whimper. Oh, and maybe a bad guy that I could take even halfway seriously for one single moment. (Instead, it was a Really Evil Cartoon Character bad guy... think Boris on Rocky and Bullwinkle.)If a friend of mine had written this, I would tell him that I loved the ideas in the book and would be happy to help him work on the prose. And there are some interesting twists, idea-wise. Fforde works in some tantalizing bits about genetic engineering, for example, and does a few unexpected things with time travel. The ideas make the book readable, but the writing doesn't give me any motivation to continue with the series.