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The Eyre affair by Jasper Fforde | Book Review

Have you ever wondered whether the stories in the books we read happen somewhere, that is apart from the writer’s mind? When a writer creates characters, settings, places that are so much loved by readers, what if the lines between reality and fiction weren’t quite there. Combine this premise with a world where time travel is possible and you get a hilarious comedy called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

The Plot:

As the name suggest, the Jane Eyre of Charlotte Bronte does play a big part here. The heroin Thursday Next (Yup, that’s right, a girl is named Thursday!!!!) lives in London of 1980s.

However, this is not the world as we know it, because:

  1. Russia is still ruled by tSar, apparently Russian revolution wasn’t successful.
  2. Wales is an independent socialist nation rather than being part of UK.
  3. England and Russia has been fighting in Crimea for nearly 150 years with no clear winner.
  4. Thursday has a pet Dodo, yup, the nearly extinct bird that was revived by cloning technique.
  5. Her father has a face that can stop the clocks.

The list goes on and on, but what we are concerned with for now is the division called Special Operations or SpecOps who aid the normal police by their specialty in various high tech crimes. Thursday works for the division called Literatecs, whose job is to prevent and solve crimes related to literature. You see, with the time travel possible, it is very easy to go in past, pinch a few first additions of the now popular classics and sell them in black market at very high price.

This is just one example and the crimes can be of much wider variety, only imagination is the limit!!

Thursday is thirty-six, single and ex-police plus ex-Crimean war soldier. However, she lost her brother on the Crimea front and broke up with his best friend Linden Park-Laine. Ten years later, she still hasn’t gotten over the wounds. The Goliath Corporation, who is pretty much the financier for the whole country, has now come up with new design of rifles called STONK. If these go on the war front, there is not much chance of the war being called off at all.

Enter Acheron Hades, an ex-professor turned into a super-criminal who has para-human powers. One of the powers being that he is never captured on a photo or video camera, ergo, no one knows who they are looking for except Thursday, who was once Acheron’s student. So, when he swoops in and steals original manuscript of Charles Dickens‘s “Martin Chuzzlewit“, everyone panics. If he changes/destroys the manuscript, all the copies of this book in existence will change as well.

While trying to solve this crime, things go really really bad and Thursday’s entire support team is killed. Acheron shoots Thursday as well but she is saved by a copy of Jane Eyre that’s in the front pocket of her coat. Thursday ends up in the hospital, where she sees her future self advising her to take the Literatec job in her hometown of Swindon.

Thursday takes the job, moves back near her family, makes new friends at the office. But, the real purpose of it all is to track Acheron Hades. She happens to have a mad-scientist type uncle – Mycroft Next– who creates a prose portal. This equipment is capable of sending humans into any book. That’s right, so while his wife Polly is ecstatic to visit Wordsworth near his daffodils, it doesn’t work quite so well when he gets kidnapped by Hades.

Hades steals the original transcript of “Jane Eyre“, kidnaps Jane from the book and asks for a ransom including ten million pounds and more. All the Bronte fans are frantic and the chase is on.

Will Thursday find Hades in time? When they are all lost in a book, what happens to the story? If they change this in past, will the future of the characters change? In the wider world, what will happen on the Crimea front?

Views and Reviews:

With so many different threads running, the story proves to be quite hilarious and enjoyable throughout. Especially, the segments where her father comes to visit her. He is a time traveller, and every time he comes, time stops in Thursday’s world. He always has questions about history that seem revolving around controversial events of past e.g., How did the Duke of Wellington die or who was Winston Churchill, etc.

But, another very enjoyable debate throughout the book is who wrote William Shakespeare’s plays? As many of you would know, this has been one of the favorite topic of controversy theorists and has been discussed in details over the centuries, as a lot of people find it astonishing that a country bumpkin with no formal education could produce such long-lasting prose.

There are many theories around it, e.g.:

  • The plays were actually written by another person – options ranging from Christopher Marlowe (Dr. Faust fame) to Francis Bacon?
  • That there were two different person with name William Shakespeare – one was an impoverished actor in London and another was a grain merchant in Stratford-upon-Avon, and one of them took credit for work done by many members of Queen Elizabeth‘s court.
  • That the work was done by William Shakespeare the actor, but with heavy influence by Christopher Marlowe (remember 1998 film ‘Shakespeare in Love‘ by John Madden, starring Gwyneth Paltro)

The list goes on and so does the debate in the book with a sort of solution in the end…

But, let’s not give out any more spoilers. Like we said above, there is a lot in this book to make you laugh. Especially if you are a history/literature buff, you’ll enjoy all the little humorous bits here and there immensely.

Not surprisingly, Jasper Fforde’s work was rejected by 76 publishers, before this book finally saw the light of bookshops in 2001. Critics liked the book as it jumps from genre to genre and has elements of science fiction, fantasy, satire, mystery and thriller, but all the time with that irreverent streak of humour through everything that happens. The series has since been quite successful, and this book was followed by six more in the series namely,

  • Lost in a Good Book
  • The Well of Lost Plots
  • Something Rotten
  • First among Sequels
  • One of our Thursdays is Missing
  • The Woman who died a lot

Since then, Jasper Fforde has one a few prizes and published two more series of books, the latest one called “The Last Dragonslayer“.

P.S.: The name Acheron Hades itself is quite interesting and has mythological connections. You might want to Google it!

Summary:

Overall good book in terms of literary aspects. If you are ok with reading with open mind you will like reading it.

Next:

We have decided to write two mini supplement articles for the Thursday – book series by author Jasper Fforde. So watch out for the same.

Note:

We have found that the book is priced quite high. We read it by borrowing it from a library. We suggest you to do the same, if you can, before you buy it. And when go for purchase, watch out for a good deal, you can wait till then.

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