Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005
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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****The Well of Lost Plots

by Jasper Fforde

Reviewed February 5, 2005.
Viking, New York, 2003.  373 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (F FFO).

The Well of Lost Plots is the third in the Thursday Next series.  Thursday Next is a Special Ops literary detective in her normal life.  However, she has learned to enter books, and is now finishing her apprenticeship with Miss Havisham to become a full member of Jurisfiction, entrusted with protecting books from roving characters or Outlanders who might want to change their plots or use items in the books for financial gain.

After her adventures in Lost in a Good Book, Thursday has decided to rest, recuperate, and hide out from Goliath Corporation.  She takes her vacation in the Well of Lost Plots.  The Well of Lost Plots is where all fiction that has not yet been published resides.  Thursday participates in the character exchange program and gets to live in a houseboat in a mediocre detective story whose characters still hope to gain publication.

The plot in this book isn’t exactly driving.  Toward the end, there’s a murder to solve, but before that point, there isn’t a strong feeling of suspense because you simply don’t know what bizarre event will happen next or how Thursday can fight the despicable plan her archenemy Aornis is trying to carry out.

However, although the plot may not be strong, the setting is the star of this book.  The Well is full of amazing things, and once again Jasper Fforde loads his book with clever jokes that literary-minded readers will find hilarious.

I was innocently reading this book in the waiting room of the clinic when I got to the following passage and had to try to contain my laughter.  I later read it to my innocent family because I wanted the fun of reading it aloud.  This took place during a Jurisfiction meeting:

“‘Good.  Item seven.  The had had and that that problem.  Lady Cavendish, weren’t you working on this?’

“Lady Cavendish stood up and gathered her thoughts.  ‘Indeed, the uses of had had and that that have to be strictly controlled; they can interrupt the imaginotransference quite dramatically, causing readers to go back over the sentence in confusion, something we try to avoid.’

“‘Go on.’

“‘It’s mostly an unlicensed-usage problem.  At the last count David Copperfield alone had had had had sixty-three times, all but ten unapproved.  Pilgrim’s Progress may also be a problem due to its had had/that that ratio.’

“‘So what’s the problem in Progress?’

“‘That that had that that ten times but had had had had only thrice.  Increased had had usage had had to be overlooked, but not if the number exceeds that that that usage.’

“‘Hmm,’ said the Bellman, ‘I thought had had had had TGC’s approval for use in Dickens?  What’s the problem?’

“‘Take the first had had and that that in the book by way of example,’ explained Lady Cavendish.  ‘You would have thought that that first had had had had good occasion to be seen as had, had you not?  Had had had approval but had had had not; equally it is true to say that that that that had had approval but that that other that that had not.’

“‘So the problem with that other that that was that . . . ?’

“‘That that other-other that that had had approval.’

“‘Okay,’ said the Bellman, whose head was in danger of falling apart like a chocolate orange, ‘let me get this straight:  David Copperfield, unlike Pilgrim’s Progress, had had had, had had had had.  Had had had had TGC’s approval?’

“There was a very long pause.”

Any author who can use eleven hads in a row, and have it make sense, is a genius in my book.  Such digressions may not be pertinent to the plot, but they make this book utterly delightful.  And, as a side benefit, I’m much more aware of my insidious tendency to use that that.

Reviews of other books by Jasper Fforde:
The Eyre Affair (#1)
Lost in a Good Book (#2)
Something Rotten (#4)
One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (#6)
The Big Over Easy
The Fourth Bear
Shades of Grey
The Last Dragonslayer
The Song of the Quarkbeast
The Eye of Zoltar

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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