• The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
• Paperback: 374 p
• Publisher: Penguin, 2003
• ISBN: 0142001805
• Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Alternate Reality
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys classic British literature and enjoys inside jokes about classic British literature; anyone who enjoys mysteries and alternate reality fiction.
 
Quick Review: Are you familiar with Shakespeare? Read Jane Eyre? Fairly knowledgeable on Dickens? What about Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones? Do you realize that the Crimean War ended in the 19th century? Have you ever even heard of the Crimean War? If you answered no to any of these questions, you don’t want to read this book. It’s really written for British Literature borks.
 

How I Got Here: I have been meaning to read this book for years. It satisfies a task for the Fall Reading Challenge so I checked it out from the library. It took me two tries before I actually read it (hard to get into).

The Book: Here is Goodreads’ synopsis:

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

My Analysis and Critique: I don’t know how anyone can enjoy this book if they haven’t read the classic works that this novel casually alludes to. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. Yet, British Literature is my forte. For me, The Eyre Affair was my own personal episode of Family Guy– instead of constant references to ’80s pop culture, it was full of allusions to Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen. And, of course, the entire second and third acts of Jane Eyre.

In the alternate reality of The Eyre Affair, all pop culture centers around literature. Instead of baseball cards, kids trade bubble gum cards of their favorite characters from Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones: “If you want Sophia you’re going to have to give me an Allworthy plus a Tom Jones, as well as the Amelia!”. In this society, a popular outing on a Saturday night might be to take part in the vocal audience of Richard III, complete with yelling lines with and at the actors in a call and response fashion (think Rocky Horror Picture Show). It’s a bork’s paradise!

Then, there is the mystery aspect of the story. Thursday Next is the protagonist, an investigator of literary crimes. Next is hot on the trail of a man who steals the original manuscripts of classics, steps into the manuscripts (don’t ask), kidnaps a character (still don’t ask), and then kills them outside of the text so that all copies of the book are forever altered (really, don’t ask, I don’t entirely get it either). She hunts him down until she too is in the pages of Jane Eyre, kicking it with Mrs. Poole and comforting the ever melancholy Rochester. You’ll just have to read it to understand.

While the story was fun, I really wasn’t that into it. This has become glaringly clear as I am currently staying up late, reading hundreds of pages of my current book, while I could barely get through 20 pages of The Eyre Affair without snoozing on the text. It really had too much going on. Allusion after allusion…I had to keep checking my memory to see if I was getting all of the references. I didn’t care about any of the characters (except Rochester, of course, my #1 book boyfriend) and really didn’t care for the mystery plot. It was fun, though. Yet, unless you’re a bork for British Literature, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Links:

  1. See Goodreads synopis and reviews
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