“The Eyre Affair” by Jasper Fforde has one of the most inventive plots I have read in quite some time.
Great Britain in an outlandish 1985 is the setting for the main character, Special Operative Thursday Next of the British government’s Literary Detective division, and an odd assortment of characters which include her pet DoDo bird, militant Baconians, Neanderthal servants, and a villainous global corporation.
It is clear from the beginning that Fforde loves words. He loves how words are put together, how the modify and describe each other, and how a subtle twist in a meaning can change the reader’s perspective of an entire scene. Additionally, Fforde is not only a lover of literature, but a dreamer of alternate literature and arts – people come to blows over theories of who might actually wrote Shakespeare’s works, wondering groups of hooligans loyal to Raphael or one of the other masters, and criminals try to pass off fraudelent copies of lost works of the literary masters on a daily basis. Unless the reader suspends all disbelief as they pick up “The Eyre Affair” the sheer magnitude of the wondrous culture Jasper Fforde has created.
The dialogue in the story is well done, although some Britishisms may escape an American reader. Conversations flow quickly ushering the reader through the story; abstract concepts are made concrete throughout the course of the story as Thursday is transported into the literary world, literally. Her ability to enter books is not unique, but is by no means widespread by those inhabiting this surreal British world.
Two major villains appear as in the story, one a nemesis (Acheron Hades), and one a nuisance (Goliath Corporation). Both are villains with “fuzzy socks” as Meredith Bond puts it: Hades once taught English Literature, and Goliath Corporation provides technology and products to the world including being the source of the Church of the Global Standard Deity.
Thursday Next pursues Acheron Hades into “Jane Eyre” where Hades attempts to change the outcome of the book. Of course, this is illegal in Next’s literary and artistic world. Using her new found abilities she pursues him into the book as any good Spec Ops agent would do.
Fforde has put together a wonderfully fun series beginning with “The Eyre Affair” and continuing in “Lost in a Good Book.” He has an imagination that breathes a new life into and the dust off of the old literary classics. The book gets 5 flags for a great and truly unique story.