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, veryseriously. 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.~Goodreads Blurb
Just as a starting note, I would say that you need to at least have a passing knowledge of Jane Eyre before reading this book. It isn’t super important but it may make a difference in how much you enjoy this book. To be fair there are a lot of literary puns and in in-jokes that might leave you scratching your head or just brushing it off without notice. I’m have my English Lit. degree and I still had to look up a couple of character notes to get the joke. This may have been a book-lover's gift to other book-lovers, that got out of hand and the public got a hold of it. Not everyone’s cup of tea but clever if you know what to look for.
The Eyre Affair was listed as dystopian in some reviews but I think it firmly lies in the Speculative Fiction world. It is laced with humor and world building that would make Pratchett say, “It’s a good start.” The alternative timeline can be a little hard to understand if you aren’t from the 1980’s England. As a 90s kid who lived in America all her life, I had to do some Googling to figure out when the Crimean War actually ended and what it was all about. (3 year war resulted in Treaty of Paris no real winner though the Allies claimed a victory.) Not being British or a literature buff may make this book a bit annoying and that isn’t something you want for your readers. There’s clever and too clever. The way the author, Jasper Fforde, names his characters seems to be a deliberate nudge to the readers. Almost like saying, “See that, look what I did there.” While some like Paige Turner can be forgiven as cutesy, naming your bad guy Acheron Hades, is a bit like Boaty McBoatface or Baddie McDevilguy
Well written and paced well, the actual Eyre Affair doesn’t take place until over halfway through the story so I can’t help but wonder if a different title might not have served the author better. There is a strong whimsical feel to the timeline, which gives us dodo birds and door-to-door Baconians, the author not the animal product. The ending seems to have a bit of a deus ex machina feel to it but with all the messing about in other people's’ books it fits rather well in the novel. I enjoyed it but the having to open Google up every few chapters can get rather tiresome for some folks.
The Author's Information is listed on Goodreads as: Jasper Fforde is a novelist living in Wales. He is the son of John Standish Fforde, the 24th Chief Cashier for the Bank of England, whose signature used to appear on sterling banknotes, and is cousin of Desmond Fforde, married to author Katie Fforde. His early career was spent as a focus puller in the film industry, where he worked on a number of films including Quills, GoldenEye, and Entrapment.
His published books include a series of novels starring Thursday Next: The Eyre Affair(2001), Lost in a Good Book (2002), The Well of Lost Plots (2003), Something Rotten(2004) and First Among Sequels (2007). The Big Over Easy (2005), which shares a similar setting with the Next novels, is a reworking of his first written novel, which initially failed to find a publisher. It had the working title of Nursery Crime, which is the title now used to refer to this series of books. The follow-up to The Big Over Easy, The Fourth Bear was published in July 2006 and focuses on Goldilocks and the Three Bears.