The Eyre Affair

ea3Don’t usually review books here. But I know some of you are champing at the bit for some recommends. There’s a new year coming up and you’re looking for reading material. So I thought I would give this reviewing thing a go. If you enjoy Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, The Eyre Affair by Jasper FForde is definitely your cup of tea. The heroine, Thursday Next, is a LiteraTec, a detective who investigates literary crimes. She has a dad who is pretty darn good at manipulating time. As she says, he has “a face that could stop a clock.” Literally it can stop a clock.

Cloning is the thing and so Thursday has a dodo. Unlike some, Pickwick has enough dodo in him to be a dodo. There are consequences when they don’t. There’s random strands of pink flamingo in some. Also she has an uncle who is not a dodo. He is named Mycroft after Sherlock Holmes’ older brother, and he is very smart. Brilliantly so. He is an inventor, coming up with gadgets like the ChameleoCar, the Rosettionery and the Olfactograph.

In the Thursday Next world, you find characters with names like Victor Analogy, Filbert R. Snood, a poetry expert named Finisterre and Liz Barrett-Browning, a receptionist at the Finis Hotel, “the last word in comfort and style.” It’s a world where poetry enthusiasts take the name of their favorite dead poet. It’s a world where surrealists riot on the fourth anniversary of the legalization of surrealism.

The novel takes place in 1985 but it is a 1985 that isn’t our 1985. Napoleon and Wellington were both killed at Waterloo. The Crimean War is still going on, and it’s been a draw between the Brits and the Russkies since 1854. Thursday is a veteran of the conflict. Russia is still ruled by a czar. Wales has a president-for-life, Owain Glyndwr VII, and it has made itself into the People’s Republic of Wales. The French have occupied the Isle of Wight. People get their news from the Toad News Network. All this is presenting the SOC, the Scene of the Crime.

Now for the Crime. The hand-written manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens has been stolen. Yes, it has been purloined. The Charles Dickens here may not be the real Charles Dickens but the one who plays Charles Dickens in the book. Sound confusing? Well, the way the thief got away with the manuscript is even more baffling.

All roads lead to that arch-villain, Acheron Hades. He’s so dastardly villainous that he could teach Doctor Moriarity and The Red Skull a few tricks. Since Thursday is one of the few who know Hades’ face, she is transferred temporarily to a different SpecOps group. And then she’s on a stake-out.

She spies Hades in a building across the alley, discussing the time of day with his brother. Hades is such a baddie that he kills his brother, Styx, when he thinks his brother laid a trap for him to be caught. Styx isn’t smart enough to lay a trap.

Thursday and her partners are off, after Hades. Soon the partners are dead and she is unconscious and wounded. It is like she’d been pursuing a phantom, only Acheron Hades is no phantom. All she has left of the chase is “some broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a bruise to die for.” A copy of Jane Eyre saves her life. In the hospital, they tell her the villain is dead. Despite the evidence, she’s not so sure.

She decides that she’s transferring to Swindon for a change of pace. Then, of a sudden, a red sports car shows up in her hospital room. Two blinks and it doesn’t vanish. From the bowels of the automobile, a woman urges her to take the transfer. Funny thing. She recognizes the woman. Of all the people she could be, the woman in the car is Thursday Next. As she checks out of the hospital, she discovers Rochester from Jane Eyre fame aided her at the SOC, saving her life.

So she’s off to Swindon and going by airship. It’s a twenty-seater too. She stops to see her mom and her Uncle Mycroft and Aunt Polly. Thing is that Mom’s in Swindon while Dad’s having an affair with Lord Nelson’s girlfriend.

While Thursday goes off to do what Thursday does next, her Aunt Polly visits the insides of a Wordsworth poem, thanks to one of her husband’s inventions. Then everything goes black. It looks like both she and Uncle Mycroft are kidnapped. As the readers weave their way through the book, surprise upon surprise keeps cropping up. Surprises like who the other person was in the sports car that Thursday drove into her own hospital room.

Lest you think the book is just a mystery caught in one time continuum or other, that would be thinking in the wrong direction. There’s the romance between Jane Eyre and Rochester. Thursday still has the desires for another Crimean veteran named Landon. She’s playing the piano in the Cheshire Cat bar and he joins her, his fingers matching hers on the keyboard. But it’s at a time when there is still a lot of bad blood between the two. Whether they’ll get together is part of the guessing game of the novel.

There’s a lot of fun to this read, and a lot of favorite literary characters too. All thanks to Jasper Fforde, a novelist who gives Monty Python and Doctor Who a run for their money. Read The Eyre Affair. You will like it. I know I loved it. And don’t worry about the time continuums.You might find yourself in one where time slows down and you get to read all those books you’ve been meaning to read.

One thing is for sure. Jasper Fforde might just make you want to read Martin Chuzzlewit written by the real Charles Dickens or give Jane Eyre a spin.

Is there a particular funny book you’ve read lately?

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6 thoughts on “The Eyre Affair

  1. Lately, I’ve been reading Dating Your Mom by Ian Frazier. I also really like the comic essays of Andy Rooney, that 60 minutes guy. My favourite funny book — Candy, a satire of porn by Terry Southern (screenwriter for Easy Rider and Barbarella).

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