Thursday, September 22, 2011

Natanya Reviews The Eyre Affair


Title/Author: The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Publisher/Year: Viking Penguin, 2001
Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: Who doesn’t love a book about books?

From Goodreads:
Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

When I finished The Eyre Affair, my first thought was, “This book is awesome.” Fforde wrote a fun, witty satire, taking place in a world in which literature is treated with such high regard that it’s hysterical. I loved all of the different lit references, and I loved how Fforde literally brought the novels to life. Of the classic literature mentioned in this novel, I’d only actually read Jane Eyre, but for the most part it doesn’t really matter if you’ve read the books referenced. While it was beneficial that I had read Jane Eyre because the version of that novel in this story is slightly different than the actual one, The Eyre Affair has so many different plot lines that it isn’t a huge deal if you haven’t read Jane Eyre. There is actually a short summary of Jane Eyre two-thirds of the way through the novel, though, so if you don’t want it spoiled for you, you may want to read it first.

As I said, this book has a lot going on. It really has it all—time travel, exotic animals, crazy cults, bizarre superhuman powers, et cetera. It’s over the top, both in quantity and the nature of the content. I read a couple reviews saying that it was too much, and in retrospect it was a bit excessive, but it didn’t really bother me while I was reading it (perhaps because I read it right after reading A Dirty Job, so I was in the mindset for over the top plots). I enjoyed keeping up with the different mysteries and storylines, and constantly wondered what was going to happen next, though it was a bit unfocused as a whole. While the multitude of storylines may have resulted in some not being explored to the extent they could have been, I still felt satisfied when I finished the book. Plus, it’s the first in a series, so I’m assuming Fforde further explores all of this stuff in the future novels.

One thing I didn’t really understand was the role that the Crimean War plays in this novel. In Fforde’s alternative universe, the Crimean War—which really ended in 1856 after lasting for 2.5 years—has been going on for about 130 years, and it’s the norm to have fought in it. I don’t know very much about this war, so I don’t really understand why Fforde opted to make this such a big part of the novel. If anyone would like to enlighten me, please do.

On the whole, I think The Eyre Affair has a great balance of humor and drama. It is very humorous and very satirical: every name in the novel is deliberately cheesy and reflective of the character, and before each chapter are quotes by the characters—generally from their biographies, journals, etc—which were a funny twist on the normal quotes before chapters or epigraphs at the beginning of books. While the novel didn’t really have much of a lasting effect on me (I’m writing this review about a week and a half after reading it and have had a difficult time remembering what I really thought about it), it was a fun read, and I definitely want to continue the series.

4 stars

16 comments :

  1. I loved the whole Thursday Next series, Fforde is such an original, witty writer.

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  2. I just read this one too. I liked it but it didn't hold me enough to make me want more of his writing. It may just be that I'm not into crime fiction and it was written in that way, even with all the literary references.

    My confusion was all the build up to the actual Jane Eyre parts. The Jane Eyre book isn't part of the plot until almost 3/4 of the book is done. Maybe if that had been cut down and more focus on Jane Eyre I might have liked it better.

    He certainly is witty though.

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  3. Jasper Fforde is one of my favorite writers. :) Don't you just love how quirky this was? It gets better in the next books!

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  4. I've always wanted to read this one. I knew it involved Jane Eyre in some way (duh) but I didn't know the exact plot. It sounds like a riot!

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  5. I always love hearing from people discovering Fforde for the first time! I definitely love his quirkiness.

    Though I can't say for sure why he chose to have the Crimean War last so long, I always took it as his little poke at people that don't really know history. I know when I first read it I actually had to look up the Crimean War, so I assume that him taking one of the more minor European conflicts and making it into a major event - which still is pretty much in the background and seen as rather "ho-hum" for his characters - was just another piece of satire. (Again, I can';t speak to Fforde's real intent, but that was my take on it.)

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  6. I read this as part of a book club, and I think I may have been the only who liked it (and I really did...I've read the rest of the series since). Since I'm crazy, I recommended it to another book club, who also didn't like it. I forget not everyone has my (awesome) sense of humor...

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  7. Sounds interesting! Thanks for the review.

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  8. I have this sitting here on my shelf...it's been there for the past 3 years or so lol. Thanks for reminding me about it! might bump it up.

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  9. I keep reminding myself that I need to read the next book in this series since I enjoyed the Eyre Affair so much. Thanks for the reminder.

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  10. The Thursday Next books are some of my favorites out there. Hope you continue with it cos the series just gets better

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  11. I tried reading this book a few months ago, but I guess it just wasn't the right time for me. I only got 50 pages in before I abandoned it for another book. The plot sounds amazing, though, so I'm definitely going to give it another try sometime in the future.

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  12. I think I'm going to like this book.

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  13. Loved the whole series, so funny & unique.

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  14. :) He's fantastic, isn't he? It actually took me a few attempts to get into him. Years ago I came upon one of his books and for the life of me couldn't get into it. It felt is was too ~wacky & zany~ for me. However, about two years ago I picked it up again and fell in love. Since then, I've been devouring his other novels & have had the pleasure of getting friends & customers (I work at a bookshop) into him.

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  15. I really didn't like this book. To me, it felt like Fforde was showing off his knowledge of literature and history, and I felt confused at the world building.
    None-the-less, I'm glad you enjoyed this book. I can see why it's so popular, I guess it just wasn't for me.
    Great review. :)

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