|The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde|
Published by Hodder
Paperback - 373 pages
Published July 2001
Review copy given by publisher
Part of the Hodderscape Review Project
The year is 1985.
This is the world that Jasper Fforde has created in The Eyre Affair, and it's this alternate world that is at once both bewildering and amazing. Fforde's alternate world is one where literature reigns supreme; the question of whether Shakespeare actually wrote his plays is one that divides opinion and loyalties, and John Milton has such a strong following that there are annual conventions dedicated to him (and every guest is registered under the name 'John Milton').
The book is chock full of literary references, most of which were completely lost on me (but made me more determined to read the classics). Not understanding the references didn't detract from the story; it merely added to the oddity of Fforde's world.
This is the world in which Thursday Next works. As a member of the LiteraTec office, her job is to ensure the continued safety of our nation's literature. This all goes a bit pear shaped when Archeron Hades manages to find a way to enter novels and kidnap their protagonists, and Thursday has to try and stay one step ahead of a man who for all intents and purposes can't be killed or captured.
Thursday is as normal a protagonist as you can get in this crazy world. She's not what would be classed as a typically 'strong' heroine, but her strength comes from her experiences that have steeled her against the world. She doesn't necessarily fit into any typical archetype for a heroine, but rather feels like a naturally written and well balanced protagonist. I really liked her strength and her vulnerability in equal measure; she felt like a real person - a rare thing in fantasy.
Fforde has also crafted a superb cast of supporting characters. Thursday's uncle Mycroft, an inventor who has some excellent and unusual literary-focused inventions, and her father, a renegade Chronoguard (time agent) who pops up at random moments to check historical facts before popping off again, are a joy to read about.
My only real gripe with the novel is that there seemed to be more than a few instances of deus ex machina that cropped up, which jarred the experience a little bit for me. I'm not sure if this was done deliberately as a throwback to older literature (given the number of literary references in the book, this could be true), but it seemed that things would inexplicably turn out for the best. Once would have been okay, but there were a few instances that made me notice it all the more.
Bonus points to the book for including the Republic of Wales, and it's capital of Merthyr Tydfil (my home town). That alone makes everything else pale in comparison.
|A ripping yarn!|