Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde is a quirky novel which takes place in an alternate reality where it is England in the mid '80s, Winston Churchill is unknown (having probably died in his youth), the Crimean war is still being fought, and fans of Francis Bacon walk from door-to-door trying to convert people into accpeting that Shakespeare never wrote those plays really.

This novel aspires to be nothing more than frivolous fun, a summer beach read quickly enjoyed and, once finished, set aside.  And yet, it is also a literati's erotica, full of allusions to the classics.  You know you're in for a fun ride from the start when an epigraph written by Millon de Floss is quoted.  (Get it?  Mill on the  Floss!)

Further, this novel doesn't fit any mold that I can possibly summarize.  Quirky is the only word that seems to cover it all and yet says too little.  You have time travel (sci-fi) and novels one can literally (no pun intended) enter (fantasy) plus a love interest with a complication (romance) all focused on Thursday Next, a Special Operative (thriller) and . . . you quickly see how this one book simply doesn't fit the norm.  Where does one even look for this in a bookstore?  I hope in the literature section because it would be a farce to try to shelve it anywhere else.

The book is quirky but not laugh out loud funny so it fell a little short for me.  Not short enough for me to not want to read on.  After all, I didn't especially guffaw as I read some of the early Discworld books.  I have a feeling that Fforde may have needed to hit his comic stride and I would be surprised if following volumes in the Thursday Next series don't prove to be all the more outrageous and utterly hilarious.  (The author also has a series of "nursery crime" novels and there's a children's book soon to be released as well.)

My daughter-in-law recommended this book to me because she enjoyed them so much.  I'm glad she did.  And I'll probably read the second one sooner rather than later.

Note:  There are currently five published books in the series with a sixth to be published soon.  I'm tempted to wait until the last of the books is published but I'm already doing that with the Wheel of Time books and I only have so much patience.

PS Note:  The last WoT book will be released late 2011 so you can expect me to be rereading the first few books, reading the later books in the series, and reviewing them all beginning in 2012.  Yay!


  1. So far I think the second one was my favorite. The third one would have been if not for the fact it confused me.

  2. I'm looking forward to reading the second one. I have a few other books to get through and then the next "fun" book I grab will be the second.

  3. Which reminds me, I need to buy the 4th.

  4. Yes you do, unless of course you want to wait to see if someone will give it to you for your birthday or something. Either way, you have to get it and the 5th book (and then the 6th when it is published) if only so I can borrow them.

  5. i read "the eyre affair" a few years ago because of someone's glowing review of it, and i pretty much agree with what you've written here. where you said "quirky", i've said "cute" in trying describing the book to someone else.

    i expect i'll get around to picking up the others in the series eventually, but since the first didn't really *grab* me, it's not very high on the list right now.

  6. Christina,

    My feeling is that like Terry Pratchett, Fforde's comic voice will become stronger as he becomes more confident in his tone.

    At least that's my hope.