Is there a cooler name than “Thursday Next”?

June 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm 1 comment

‘I had trouble with the end of Jane Eyre…she agrees to go with this drippy St John Rivers guy but not to marry him, they depart for India and that’s the end of the book? Hello? What about a happy ending? What happens to Rochester and his nutty wife?’ – The Eyre Affair

You know what I love? Jasper Fforde’s first two Thursday Next novels. Why? Because they are amazing.

My thesis supervisor would not be happy with that answer, incidentally. She’d want to know why they’re amazing, what makes them amazing, and why you should even care. That’s fair enough, I suppose.

The Eyre Affair is genius because it’s the first book of its kind I’ve ever read. Somehow, Mr. Fforde has managed to meld together mystery and sci-fi, while adding the flavor of a Victorian novel (Jane Eyre). He’s somehow also managed to use time travel and creates (albeit only with words) a machine which allows a reader to actually jump into a book and live within it. There’s a tame dodo named Pickwick, vampire hunters, a rogue time-traveler, and Mr. Rochester come to life. It’s almost insane how much is in this book, and it’s even crazier how Mr. Fforde makes it all work.

In the second, Lost in a Good Book, Mr. Fforde continues his play with time travel and the consequences thereof, as well as working in quantum physics and the idea of a multiverse. It takes quite an author to play with the concepts of entropy as deftly as he plays with the plots of Jane Eyre and Great Expectations.

Lost in a Good Book also brings Miss Havisham of Great Expectations to life, in what might be, for some readers, a more satisfactory way than Dickens had. As he has with Mr. Rochester, Mr. Fforde continues the trend of taking interesting characters who do not really appear much in their own books and expanding them. It’s extraordinarily rewarding for fans of the great classics who will love to hear definitively how much Mr. Rochester is in love with Jane from the beginning, and how Miss Havisham has a life outside of her character (Secret Agent Havisham!).

Also, here’s some food for thought, structurally: Neither of these books (and indeed, none of Mr. Fforde’s books except the Nursery Crimes series) have a chapter 13. They are noted in the table of contents, but do not appear on page 142 as they are meant to. The fact that both of them were due to appear on page 142 may or may not be significant.

All right, why should this matter to you? It should matter a great deal, because Mr. Fforde’s technical and creative brilliance makes for very good reading. He is the only postmodern author I’ve ever enjoyed, and actually, I haven’t enjoyed any book as much as I did these in quite some time. Definitely books worth buying!

*This review sponsored by the Toast Marketing Board.

** If you got that joke, good for you! Though clearly you’ve already read the books and there was really no need for you to read this entry…but thanks anyway :D


Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Sci-fi. Tags: , , , .

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