Fairy Tale Friday:The Fourth Bear

August 21, 2009 at 12:00 am 4 comments

Don’t think that ‘Nursery’ in the title of my division makes it cozy kittens, fluffy toys and shades of pink–it’s a violent and dangerous world, full of murder, theft and cannibalism.

Jasper Fforde has a knack for turning the literary world on end. I don’t mean the world of people who write books or talk about books, but the world that exists only within books. Fforde has already explored this world in the Thursday Next series, about a literary detective who can actually step inside books and visit them. In The Fourth Bear, second in Fforde’s Nursery Crime series, Fforde takes nursery rhymes and fairy tales such as Jack Spratt, and places them in a world where fiction and non-fiction can coexist.

The Nursery Crimes series also includes aliens and at least one sentient gingerbread man addition to the PDRs–that’s Persons of Dubious Reality, from Punch and Judy to Caliban from The Tempest. While at first this combination will seem strange to those not accustomed to science fiction, the form of Fforde’s novel should be familiar. The Fourth Bear essentially follows the structure of a police procedural, while poking fun at the form using self-aware references from the characters themselves (for example, several of the characters refer to ‘plot device number twenty-six’, or to the fact that standard procedure in detective novels is that at at least one point in the novel, the characters will have to wait overnight for information). In this novel, the case in question is that of Goldilocks, missing person and investigative journalist.

The police procedural isn’t all Fforde sends up, and I am pretty sure certain parts of the book comprise a barely-veiled argument for the legalization of marijuana. But the novel is really brilliant satire, and as a result remains lighthearted and a fun read for its entirey. This is a book worth at least borrowing, especially if you’re a fan of detective novels and nursery rhymes.

(An additional note: Please check out Jasper Fforde’s website! Someone has taken a great deal of time with it, it’s one of the best author websites I’ve seen, and it includes an incredible amount of supplemental material for all of Fforde’s books, including several missing scenes from The Fourth Bear. The Nursery Crimes section of the website can be found here.)

Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Fairy Tale Friday.

Beating a dead horse — or maybe an undead horse The Secret of Lost Things

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  August 21, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Oh Jasper…so clever. I have only read the Erye Affair, but perhaps I will give these a go. Would you say you find the Wednesday Next books better or worse than these Nursery Crimes one? Just your opinion!

    • 2. KT  |  August 21, 2009 at 9:17 am

      Hmm! I like them both about equally, but as much as I loved The Fourth Bear, the character of Thursday Next appealed to me more than that of Jack Spratt. In addition, I’m not really a huge police procedural fan anyway. Both series are really excellent, though!

      • 3. Corey  |  August 21, 2009 at 9:21 am

        Heh…Why did I think her name was Wednesday? Sorry about that. Consider it an indication of my mind’s current half-dead state.

        Anyway, thank you for the recommendation! I’m divided about which Jasper to read next, but I think I should definitely read something by him.

      • 4. KT  |  August 21, 2009 at 9:37 am

        Definitely read Lost in a Good Book! That’s the second in the Thursday Next series, and I really, really liked it!

        Heh, I feel like Wednesday is actually a more common girl’s name…wasn’t a member of the Adams family named Wednesday?


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