Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Books: The Eyre Affair

About four months ago, I was shelving books at work, when a particular title caught my eye. The first thing I noticed was the author's name : Jasper Fforde. Now, it's not every day that you have a name with two 'f's in a row, so my interest was already up. And the cover had a picture of a dodo riding a scooter on it, so that was another bonus. The premise also proved to be interesting, involving an alternate history of England where the Crimean War had gone on for over 130 years, and the main character was a Literary Detective. The only problem I had with the book was that it was called The Eyre Affair, which is a reference to the book that was the second-most-hated book in my High School English classes, Jane Eyre. I was definitely put off for a while, but good word of mouth meant that I ended up coming around and reading the damn thing.

First of all, to sum up: the book has a strong dose of very British humor. If you don't like puns, silly names, or hidden punchlines, then you might not like this book. However, if you do, then I highly reccommend this book.

The main character's name is Thursday Next (I told you, didn't I?), a woman who loves her pet dodo, who's father is a time-hopping secret agent, and works in Britain's Special Operations Level 27 as a Literary Detective, or LiteraTec. Her job usually consists of finding forged "original manuscripts" and arguing with her co-workers about who really wrote Shakespeare's plays. Until she's assigned to a case involving the third-most-dangerous man in all of England, her former professor, Acheron Hades. Then her life gets really interesting.

I can't do a proper summary of the book, as it's such a foreign place that I couldn't begin to describe it without giving up a few little secrets. Fforde has created a very interesting alternate world, where the borders of time, space, and fiction are blurred in ways that aren't scientifically overexplained so as to hold back the more important story. He writes with precision, making every word count, and most of his characters are fleshed out well enough to make them more intriguing than the strange situations they find themselves in. He takes the reader on some adventures that don't further the plot, trying to show how different things are in his world, and a few characters are mentioned a few times and then casually thrown away. On the whole, though, it's a good introduction to a series that promises to get better and more bizarre with every book (there's a grand total of four books, and one just came out). It's a fun read, full of adventure and literary reference, and anyone with an interest in books or Britons should enjoy it. Even if you don't happen to like Charlotte Bronte.

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