"The Eyre Affair" (Jasper Fforde, 2001)

I could kick my own ass for keeping “The Eyre Affair” on my SUB (Shelf of Unread Books) for over 2.5 years. I missed out on so much fun. It’s probably as much fun to read now as it would have been back then, but still… I really don’t know why I didn’t give it a try earlier. It obviously seemed interesting enough to me to buy it. Anyway, I started reading a few days before Christmas and I just finished it and eagerly wait for the delivery of the second and third book of the “Thursday Next” novel series. According to the DHL shipment tracking these are on their way to the outbound hub and hopefully will be delivered tomorrow.

Why did I have so much fun during my first visit to the “Thursday Next” universe? It’s really difficult to explain, because all the funny details that put the broad grin on my face, might sound rather silly if I retell them. Details like the translating carbon paper that Thursday’s uncle had invented. I just realize that you need to know what carbon paper is and how it worked in the first place. To all those born after 1980… did you ever wonder what the CC in your mail header stands for *g*? Google it…. But that’s not the point here anyway.

Some of the appraisal on the book sleeve sum it up pretty accurately: “A wonderful mixture of the literary and the very silly” – “a silly book for smart people” – “This year’s grown-up J.K. Rowling”. All the fantasy stuff and the difference between our real world and the one portrayed in the story reminded me of Harry Potter in the beginning, but Fforde’s story definitely is much funnier and it isn’t situated in a highschool :-). The story is a fascinating mix of thriller, comedy, romance (almost a bit soap-opera-ish sometimes) and then of course there is the whole fantasy element to it all.

In this novel’s universe England is still fighting Russia over the Crimean peninsuala (for over 130 years now), different technologies have been invented (like airships instead of airplanes), there is a People’s Republic of Wales, which has cut all ties to the United Kingdom, England’s goverment depends a lot on the Goliath corporation, which is involved in every part of the economy and politics and basically a shadow government. Literature is a much more popular medium than it is in our world and thus there are a lot of crimes involving literature, like forgery, stealing original manuscripts, illegal trades and so on.

Thursday Next is a 36-year old female, working for the Special Operation Network (something like the secret service) and her job at the SO-27 departement of Literary Detectives (LiteraTec) deals with all the literary crime. In the “Eyre Affair” a villian plans to use a invention of Thursday’s uncle to enter the fictional world and threatens to kill one of the main characters or change that piece of literature in any other way. Thursday is recruited to help with the investigation which includes much higher ranked departements as LiteraTecs and she’s doing an awesome job while she’s at it. She’s the female heroine of this story after all, so she is basically running the investigation :-)
Thursday is one of the few persons who are (or at least once were) able to enter the fictional world all on her own, which is such a unique idea to begin with wether it happens all on it’s own or with the help of a her uncle’s machine. The characters in the novel are well aware that they are just that – characters in a novel and that they are destined to relive the same events over and over again. It sounds really weird, but it makes perfect sense in the novel. In Thursday Next’s universy the “Jane Eyre” novel also has a different ending than the one we know, which even annoyes Edward Rochester himself, but he can’t do anything about it. But of course he can count on Thursday, once she had entered his world ;-) Reading “The Eyre Affair” is probably only half the fun, if you haven’t read the original “Jane Eyre” as well, but as I did that a few years ago and as I loved it immensly, it was a lot of fun to see Thursday Next roaming Thornfield Hall.

It’s really really difficult to find the right words to explain why I enjoyed this story so much. It just was so uniquely funny in an utterly charming way. Not to mention the entertaining romantic twist and turns of Thursday’s own life. I really really want to know what life has in store for her (personally and professionally) and I just can’t wait to get my hands on the 2nd part of the series “Lost in a Good Book”. And I have a hard time staying away from wikipedia articles about the whole series, because I don’t want to be spoiled. At least not yet :-)

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