Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

What would you do if you had a face that could literally stop time? Or if you could really clone yourself? How about meet and greet your fav literary character? In the world of SpecOps and LiteraTec (Literary Detective division) extrodinaire, Thursday Next, all of these things are possible.

My sister recommended the book, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, to me a few weeks back…and now that she wants to commandeer the book from me, I figured I better get a move on since she will be wanting it by Christmas no doubt.

This speculative fiction book is a hodge-podge mixture of sci-fi, fantasy, time travel, YA, mystery/detective novel, steampunk, and vampire/werewolf fiction all in one…and the best part, it’s all based on classic British Literature. Set in 1985 Great Britain, detective Thursday Next (a Crimean War vet) is living in an alternative universe where time travel (among many things) are all possible.

Next is sent to investigate a puzzling case, someone has taken Charles Dickens’s original manuscript for Martin Chuzzlewit. The LiteraTec task force suspects notorious mass murderer and thief Acheron Hades…except there is one problem, no one knows what he looks like except Next.

Next is recruited by the SpecOps 5 division–a more prestigious and secretive group than her own LiteraTec SpecOps level 27 ranking–to help them identify and find Hades. When they finally track him down, the SpecOps 5 task force ends in disaster with only Next left to face an inquisition from the higher ranking and internal investigation agency–SpecOps 1.

After a grueling interview after the mission gone wrong, Next is sent back to a LiteraTec job but not in London….she will now be at a LiteraTec at a ‘desk job’ in her home town of Swindon. Next takes this in stride as her ultimate goal is to track down Hades….but when literary characters start disappearing from famous literary works, and when Next’s family members and friends become trapped in prose from her uncle’s Prose Portal….she must enter into the novels themselves to teach down and kill Hades before its too late.

I had read lots of good things about this first book of the Thursday Next series…..everyone said it was like Harry Potter but for adults…one even said it was like a Miss Marple mystery but with sci-fi/fantasy parts. So needless to say I was SUPER excited to read this book and it would have been an easy read if I knew what the hell was going on!

I would unequivocally say….you HAVE to be a literary fan and know your literature to throughly enjoy the book and catch the little hints and references to the carious characters…for example, Next’s trusty dodo bird (a bird made widely popular in Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland)…the dodo is named Pickwick, after Charles Dickens company the Pickwick Papers….which I believe published some one Carroll’s works. So you can see the irony there :). So as you can see you get a far more rich understanding of the novel if you love and know your literature.

All the cure character names and irony aside….I can’t say that I really liked the book, and that makes me so sad. I really really really wanted to like it. It had the potential to be fantastic but I’ll be honest I had no idea what was going on from the word go.

I felt like I was just dropped down some time portal into a weird speculative alternative world London and but there was nothing really there to guide me along or explain how the world worked. For example in Harry Potter when Hagrid says something about muggles, Harry ask’s ‘what are muggles’ Hagrid replies ‘non magic folk’….so that makes send and now I understand but I didnt’ get that from this book.

In the beginning we meet Next’s father who’s face can literary stop time but only see can see him, and then he’s off again to some other bygone era….why? How does this work? Where does he go? I was so confused trying to figure out what was going on and gathering my bearings that I probably missed a few details but by then I was lots.

I also didn’t care for Next herself. She was too ‘tough’ for me in some ways. Have a female as a vet of the Crimean Wars (a corporal too!) indicated she has an good service record….higher up, important. But I think this make her seem more gruff and unapproachable as a character…..she put me off anyway :). I just couldn’t warm up to her which was hard .

The book began strong with lots of promise for me….I thought for sure one way or another as the story went on we would have been given more info/explanation in the new alternative universe but I don’t think that ever completely happened.

While I was trying to figure out what was going on here, literary characters were being kidnapped and family/friends are being trapped in all kinds of works from Bronte, to Wordsworth, to Poe….it was all rather confusing for me which was frustrating. I can appreciate the literacy charm though, that was the best thing…..but still I did have a time of it trying to stay interested in the book itself.

I feel like I am the exception though….I don’t read lots of speculative fiction so it sounds like people who enjoy that genre would REALLY like this novel and series, for me it just wasn’t my cup of tea even though I tried to make myself like it……sadly I just couldn’t.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Eyre Affair by Japer Fforde 

  • Paperback, 374 pages
  • Published February 25th 2003 by Penguin (Non-Classics) (first published April 1st 2000)
  • ISBN 0142001805 (ISBN13: 9780142001806)

This book counts toward: NA (but I guess with the time travel and all the air ships/dirigibles I suppose I could have read it as part of the Steampunk Reading Challenge)

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 2.5-3 out of 5 (charming characters and neat idea but I felt lost at time….)

Genre:  Sci-Fi, Time travel, Speculative fiction, YA, Steampunk

Memorable lines/quotes: NA

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2 Comments

  1. The Lit Bitch’s Year in Literature Wrap Up 2011 « The Lit Bitch
  2. Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman « The Lit Bitch

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