Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense.
All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.
The Eyre Affair, which by sheer coincidence was also this month’s By the Chapter read, is a nice little diverse from reality. I flew through the 324 pages, despite all the unnecessary information about the Crimea war, the dodos, and the Republic of Wales, and enjoyed Thursday’s battle with Hades and consequent adventure into Jane Eyre.
Of course, the key to success with this book is one should probably actually read Jane Eyre before reading The Eyre Affair. I didn’t think not doing so be a big problem, and while it didn’t affect my overall understanding of the story, Thursday’s “change” of the classic was completely misunderstood by me. I mean, she “changes” Jane Eyre‘s ending to the ending Bronte wrote, but I didn’t understand that. Although, maybe it was better I didn’t read Jane Eyre as it’s easier to follow Thursday’s actions. Then again, she talks about characters I had no idea who they were and what story they belonged to. (Contradictory, I know.) It’s also probably a good idea to also read, or at least skim, Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.
“Imagine Martin Chuzzlewit without Chuzzlewit!” he exclaimed earnestly, running through all the possibilities. “The book would end within a chapter. Can you imagine the other characters sitting around, waiting for a lead character who never appears. It would be like trying to state Hamlet without a prince!” (pg. 210)
My chief dislikes about The Eyre Affair were (1) the character’s names, (2) the characters realizing they are in a story, and (3) the random vampire not-a-subplot subplot. Everyone from Mr. Rochester to Thursday Next herself realize they are in a book, talk about being in a book, and behave like they are in a book. Fforde’s characters have names like Thursday Next, which I have to admit grew on me after a while, Jack Schitt, Analogy, Joffy Next, and Millon de Floss.
Complaints aside, I enjoyed this fun little story, and I’ll definitely be reading the sequel, Lost in a Good Book, in the feature and, if nothing else, it’s got me really excited about picking up Jane Eyre now.
- Fforde, Jasper. The Eyre Affair. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print. 374 pgs. ISBN: 9780142001806. Source: PaperBackSwap.