Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #35: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
It took a few chapters to “get into” this book, but by the end I loved Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. The novel is set in an alternate version of the 1980s in which literature is so important that a division of England’s special operative (Spec Ops) is devoted to the Litera Tecs (literature detectives). Thursday Next, a long-time Litera Tec is offered a special temporary position in a higher level of Spec Ops as they track down Acheron Hades, a criminal mastermind. After the Hades project goes badly, Thursday takes a job back in her hometown of Swindon. Although her position is the same, moving from the London office to Swindon seems like a demotion. In Swindon, Thursday connects with her offbeat family, including her uncle Mycroft, a bizarre inventor who has manufactured a portal that allows people to access their favorite works of literature. She also has an ex-boyfriend in Swindon, Landen, with whom Thursday fought in the Crimean War, a conflict between Russia and the UK in this version of reality. She has lingering feelings for Landen, but his testimony against her brother for actions in the war led to her brother, who died in the conflict, being blamed for the loss of several soldiers. Thursday can’t seem to forgive Landen, even though she’s jealous of his engagement to another woman. Meanwhile, Acheron Hades has re-emerged, and he’s managed to get into the original version of Jane Eyre to kidnap the titular character. Because alterations to the original book will cause changes to all versions of the novel, the world must take Hades’ ransom demands for Jane seriously. Thursday is also dealing with the super-powerful and quite evil Goliath Corporation, represented by the humorously named Jack Schitt. The story gets a bit convoluted (not in a bad way), but eventually, Thursday has to go into the novel Jane Eyre to try to defeat Hades and Schitt.
The structure and setting of the novel made it a bit difficult to get my bearings at the beginning. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from another fictional work, some of which are by Thursday herself. The alternate world with blimps, engineered dodo and mammoth clones, and time travel was a bit difficult to navigate, but it all started to come together and make sense after a few chapters. The ending of the novel is satisfying, which is something I’m always wary of in books that are part of a series; it left me happy with the book but still wanting to read about Thursday Next’s next adventure. I’ve been telling all the “bookish” people I know about this novel because it seems custom-made for book nerds and others who just love words. I’m all in for the rest of the series.