Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Great Library Challenge: Fforde, Jasper The Eyre Affair

Posted by lea at 4:06 PM
'Ingenious - I'll watch Jasper Fforde nervously'
Terry Pratchett

After reading this quote by Terry Pratchett, I couldn't resist picking this book for my F author in the Great Library Challenge. I can see why Fforde has been likened to Pratchett - he creates a nonsensical world of parallel reality, injects a good dose of humour and drives the plot at a furious pace.

The protagonist, Thursday Next, is a SpecOps agent in the LiteraTec department, who quickly becomes embroiled in the chase for the evil Acheron Hades. Hades is hellbent on wreaking havoc in the literary world - by which Fforde means the real literary world of fiction - and enters Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre manuscript with an intent to sabotage.

Next's chase leads her to Swindon, where she manages to cross time barriers, parry with her ex- for whom she still harbours a flame, incur the wrath of the powerful Jack Schitt (yes that's really his name) and follow Hades into Jane Eyre to change the course of the story.

Next is a protagonist you can really grow to like. She's tough, self-deprecating and smart, even though she doesn't have it altogether. The fact that she's flawed is a lot of her charm, and returning to her Swindon hometown throws her square into the path of her ex-, Landon Parke-Laine, and her quirky family (time-crossing father, absent-minded mother, multi-religious brother, Aunt Polly and brilliant Uncle Mycroft - whose name was apparently borrowed from Sherlock Holmes' genius brother).

Any literary snob (or anyone with pretensions to literary snobbery) with some smarts and a sense of humour will love this book. There are some very funny ideas that often stretch the bounds of belief, woven through with enough intelligence and classic literary knowledge to make them believable. (Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays? How many John Miltons can one town contain?) I'm sure I missed or only half-got some of the references, because my literary perch is not that lofty.

It's an enjoyable romp that manages to suspend your belief and throw a smile on your face. Apparently this is the first of a series of novels about Thursday Next, but I'm not sure if I'll continue with it right now. I get my good dose of silly and witty and Pratchett, Gaiman and Holt.

Onto my G author: I've chosen Elizabeth Gilbert, because I've been halfway through her book for ages now, but haven't been able to finish. I'm taking this opportunity to finish the book before the movie comes out and knock down my G author with one stone.

On a side note, I've found myself really embarrassed to carry Eat Pray Love around because I fear I'll be mistaken for 'one of those women'. However, I was totally won over by her TED talk on creativity, which spurred me to read her book, and I want to finish it now so I can make up my own mind whether it deserves its early acclaim or, more recently, the disdain that the movie has been receiving.

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