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


*****The Eyre Affair

by Jasper Fforde

Reviewed November 18, 2004.
Viking, New York, 2002.  (Originally published in Great Britain in 2001.)  374 pages.
Available at Ramstein Library.
Available as a selection of USAFE Libraries’ Book Club in a Box.

Sembach Library has the second, third, and fourth of Jasper Fforde’s books about literary detective Thursday Next.  I had almost decided to read them when my friend Shannon recommended the first book to me.  After that, I discovered that Ramstein Library had the first book, so I requested the book from them.

I’m going to cheat and quote Shannon’s description, which convinced me I simply had to read the book.  Shannon said:  “It defies summarization, but I’ll try:  Thursday Next, a Literary Detective in 1985 (think Orwell’s 1984) England solves crimes involving society’s favorite currency:  literature.  The story begins when she’s enlisted to help capture a dread opponent who steals the original manuscript of Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit.  Using stolen technology, he enters the novel and murders a minor character!  Then he attempts the ultimate attention-seeking crime:  the murder of Jane Eyre.  Oh, and time travel is commonplace, as is reverse extinction, or cloning, as the most common and popular pet is the dodo.  England has been at war with Russia in the Crimea for about 100 years; there’s a People’s Republic of Wales; she meets a fellow detective who hunts werewolves and vampires; and there’s a bit of a love story involved as well.  It’s scifi-fantasy-mystery-romance-fiction.  And very funny to boot.”

As she says, it’s hard to classify this book.  I lean a little toward “Adventure,” since there are thriller-like aspects to it, but I think I’ll probably go with “Science Fiction,” since the basic background is an alternate-reality England and a central part of the story is being able to enter books, but this is presented as a scientific invention, not as magic.

There’s all kinds of clever stuff in this book.  Thursday’s father is a former member of the ChronoGuard gone rogue.  He can only stay in one time for five minutes or the ChronoGuard will catch up with him.  His visits bring paradoxes and humorous bits of changing history.

I love the way the society revolves around books.  Thursday goes to a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III with cast chosen from the audience and members of the audience calling out lines.  England has been at war for more than 100 years, and members of the Giant Corporation brag that the war has brought technology they use every day.  Yet they have no television or movies, which explains the culture’s fascination with literature.

This book was wonderful, and I’ll be reading the rest of the books in the series as fast as I can get my hands on them.

Reviews of other books by Jasper Fforde:
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten
One of Our Thursdays Is Missing

The Big Over Easy
The Fourth Bear
Shades of Grey
The Last Dragonslayer
The Song of the Quarkbeast
The Eye of Zoltar
Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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