The Eyre Affair

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that a good high school friend and I first bonded over books our freshman year, and The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde was one of them. In fact, she made me first read Jane Eyre itself so that I would fully appreciate it.

I never read the fifth and sixth of the series, and since it’s been awhile the year of the reread seemed the perfect time to start at the beginning again.  Now with the perspective of looking back, I can see the seeds of things in later books and almost appreciate the humor even more.

I’m never quite sure how to describe this series to anyone I recommend it to, let alone on here. Literary sci-fi doesn’t quite do it justice. Basically it’s set in an alternate universe where the Crimean War is still going on in the 1980s, cloned dodos exist as pets, Shakespeare is the equivalent of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the different divisions of an organization called Spec-Ops keep everything running smoothly.

the eyre affairCrimean veteran Thursday Next is a member of SO-27, literary detection. Most of the time her job involves tracking forgers, and she doesn’t mind the quiet, especially after a failed attempt to bring notorious criminal Acheron Hades to justice. (Hades, by the way, maintains that he is not mad, just “differently moraled,” and feels required to live up to his name.) Something more sinister is brewing, however, beginning with the theft of the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and the appearance of what seems to be the corpse of one of its characters. Thursday’s inventor uncle Mycroft has developed a machine that allows one to jump into the pages of any literary work. Unfortunately, the machine is stolen, and someone is now holding Jane Eyre hostage. It’s up to Thursday to rescue her, in between dealing with her time-traveling father and her ex-fiance’s upcoming nuptials.

There are so many inside jokes in the book, some I remember and some I didn’t pick up on until now. The official website is an essential enhancement of the experience that I spent a lot of time exploring when I first read the books. Here are some of my favorite things I noticed this time around:

  • The airship Thursday recalls traveling on is called the Ruritania. Ten years ago I would not have known what that referred to, but I’ve been meaning to read The Prisoner of Zenda for a while now.
  • The Will-Speak machines are still one of my favorite quirks. They are left-overs from the 20s and 30s, featuring a mannequin that will recite a snippet of Shakespeare when you insert a coin. Few remain in operation, due to disrepair and vandalism by fans of Bacon.
  • Spike, the operative from SO-17 (Vampire and Werewolf Disposal Operations) has the last name Stoker. Thankfully Twilight was not around in 1985 (or when this was published, 2001).
  • Thursday’s mother is convinced that her husband, a time-traveling fugitive who can only remain in the present momentarily, is having an affair with Emma Hamilton.
  • Each chapter begins with a fictitious quotation, usually from a fictitious book. Some are from the Thursday Next biographies, written by Millon De Floss (as in the George Eliot book) looking back on the events happening now. We will actually meet him later on in the series.

There’s so much more, but as I got further in the book I kept forgetting to bookmark things. Basically, if you like books and humor, and can accept things that are a bit out of the ordinary, then this is worth reading.

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Published in: on July 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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