The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fford
Well, this was interesting.
When I picked this book up on my birthday as part of a 3 for £5 deal at the works, I had nothing but the blurb to go on. The blurb is as follows:
There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s Mr Big.
Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again..
So… From what I can gather, this is a book about a detective that solves crimes against fiction who can’t get a boyfriend and needs to rescue a kidnapped fictional character.
Sounds like fun right?
Well, yeah, it was a bit.
Thinking that that is all there is to this book is quite foolish though. This is not just a humourous detective novel, it is a humourous, alternate reality, time travelling, detective novel. It features a never ending Crimean War, huge coorporations that want to profit from that war, really, really evil bad guys, the kind that would sell their own grandmother just for some amusement, it features pet dodos and a man that can literally stop time with his own face. Not only that, it features characters with names like Jack Schitt and Thursday Next, it features the ability to dive into works of fiction and kidnap their lead characters. This is not your regular detective novel.
I’ve got to be honest, I’ve not read a great deal of detective novels. I developed what I suspect might be a life long love affair with Sherlock Holmes as a child and have tried to get into other detective stories, but I think that he might have ruined them for me by being too good. I’ve read the Jack Frost series, a few Ruth Rendells and the Colin Dexters and am on a hunt for some Agatha Christie, but that is it as far as detective novels go for me. I think this was probably a nice segue into that genre, as this was also a fantasy which I have a bit more experience with.
There are times when it gets a little pretentious, but for the most part, this is a Douglas Adams esque adventure that I actually really enjoyed. The jokes are probably ones that you need a bit of literary know how to get, there is mention of Poe and the Brontes, lots of debate about Shakespeare and literally thousands of people named John Milton. But, having said that, even I with my absolute hatred of Jane Eyre I managed to get the majority of the jokes, so I think even if you had only a basic knowledge of that particular novel you’ll be fine. Those of you that know it really well may find yourself being somewhat confused until the end but still – the jokes play out once the final page is turned. I am planning to give this to my Jane Eyre loving friend, Annie, I have a strong feeling that she will hate this, but we shall see!
Of course nothing is perfect. Unless that thing is the Miseducation of Cameron Post or perhaps, The Fault in Our Stars, then perhaps we can plead perfection, but this book is neither of those things and there were moments when I felt like doing this:
This book, although in the vein of a Douglas Adams novel, is not a Douglas Adams novel. There were points where Fforde was just simply trying to hard to be clever or amusing and at such moments, the story fell a little flat. I also found that it took a really long time to get to the Jane Eyre aspect of the story, 3/4 of the book go past before we even get to the kidnapping that is mentioned on the back cover. I think there is just far too much going on in this novel, which is great because it really fleshes it out and it gives our detective Thursday Next her dark and troubled past but towards the middle of the book I didn’t so much care about her boyfriend issues and cared more about finding out how the whole kidnapping fictional characters thing works. From reading the comments on goodreads, this seems to be a common complaint. The other common complaint is that the whole being an alternate reality thing doesn’t really work if you don’t have an intimate knowledge of Britain in the eighties or it’s geography. For instance, someone who is not British reading this, would not quite understand that Wales is a republic and the capital city is Merythr. For me being British, that’s a a bit of a smirk inducing part of the narrative. For some poor American, that, to them, might just seem to be the norm. So I agree with that one goodreads,
On the whole though, I actually quite enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to tracking down the rest of the series and seeing what else Thursday Next has to deal with. It does make me a bit dubious about how Shades of Grey will go though… I own it and haven’t yet read it, we shall see! Which detective novels should I be reading? I trust your judgement!