I just finished a strange, but fascinating book called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Today as I was trying to describe my feelings about this book to a friend, the best I could come up with was, “it was a bit hard to follow, and I kept thinking, ‘but that’s not how things really work.'” Then I realized that was exactly what Mr. Fforde may have been trying to accomplish. I went to Amazon and found this excellent quote:
When I first heard the premise of this unique mystery, I doubted that a first-time author could pull off a complicated caper involving so many assumptions, not the least of which is a complete suspension of disbelief. Jasper Fforde is not only up to the task, he exceeds all expectations.
That’s it in a nutshell. You can’t quite make the premise fit into what would generally be referred to as “modern day Earth.” Instead, the “Earth” in this book, or more specifically, “England,” is just skewed enough from reality to make you really unsure of what is fact and what is fiction.
The idea is fascinating and Mr. Fforde has based several novels around the main character, a female literary detective named Thursday Next. An entire special operations unit is devoted to maintaining the purity and accuracy of literary works beloved and treasured by the British people, which is at direct odds with the government’s ongoing war being waged in the Crimea, which is not beloved by the British people. Somehow, both are inextricably woven together seamlessly. I found myself slapping my forehead at the end saying, “Well, duh! Of course!”
In The Eyre Affair, the diabolical fiend, Hades, is out to hold England in his evil clutches by threatening various pieces of literature. The hows, the whys, and the whos are as fascinating and intricate as one could hope for in a mystery novel. But Mr. Fforde also injected a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek humor. I mean, with a major supporting character with the name of Jack Schitt, how can one not chuckle and read on?
Indeed, I did and was rewarded with many interesting concepts. One ongoing subtopic throughout the story is “Who, in fact, wrote all the works attributed to Shakespeare?” So many viable alternatives were presented that I soon found myself doubting the authenticity of everything I had studied in college.
In short, I suggest you pick up a copy of this book today. And then join Miss Next as she proceeds through other adventures in stories titled Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten, and, most recently, Thursday Next: A First Among Sequels.