The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots
Have you ever watched a Television show and been underwhelmed by the first season? If you picture this you might also remember how some of your favourite shows get better by the second season. After all, some story’s need time to set the scene.
That would be my best way to describe my feelings toward Jasper Fforde’s book series. You need to plough through the first book in order to see what the author is trying to accomplish.
Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books definitely took time to grab my attention. In fact, it was only midway through the second book I came to realise the creative genius of Jasper Fforde’s world. In order to do the books any justice and for the sake of time, I will only review the first three novels.
The Eyre Affair
The first book sets the scene. Readers enter a parallel universe set in 1985. You are forced to abandon any sense of reason as the author reveals a world in which time travel is possible, Dodos are cloned for pets and literature is the helm of crime and political debate. I haven’t even begun to list all the peculiar things Fford casually places in this parallel universe. A majority of the time I had to work hard to keep up with his creative mind. Trying to grasp the strange workings of this world and the writing style could be enough to deter new readers. Especially, given some of the more dated technology and obscure references. My advice is to persevere!
Our heroine, Thursday Next is a special operations officer in the literary department. She works mainly in detecting fake manuscripts. Her nemesis is a criminal mastermind named Acheron Hades. His latest crime involves stealing original manuscripts and somehow killing of minor characters. This results with characters dying in all printed volumes. Thursday is forced to use her Uncle’s ‘Prose Portal’ to enter the fiction world before Hades can do more damage.
The story itself is very clever. The idea that one can step into the world of fiction is simply wonderful, not to mention the prospect one could change an entire work of fiction by altering the original manuscript. Unfortunately, the first story seems to go all over the place. Whilst I loved the concept of a lit-tech detective agency many of the subplots surrounding it fell flat and contributed little to the story.
Lost in a Good Book
Following the destruction of the prose portal, Thursday is under constant watch by Goliath. A powerful and corrupt organisation, determined to enter the fictional world one way or another. When Goliath takes Thursday’s husband Laden from existence she is forced to seek help from the book world. Under the tutelage of Miss Havisham, Thursday must spend her time in the fictional world until she can find a way out of this mess.
The second book delves into the cooky and bizarre universe of literature. A majority of the book is actually set in the fictional world, which is a massive improvement. What makes this book more intriguing, in my opinion, is the Lewis Carroll style of writing. It has a Wonderland-Esque narration and plays beautifully with the English language. This is something the first book failed to deliver on. For example, the idea that character’s from books can communicate via footnotes was a stroke of genius. Whilst it made reading the book challenging it was equally fun and whimsical.
What I loved most about the sequel is how it allowed readers to explore a land of fiction. A place where you can see your favourite characters again and learn how they interact with each other outside their own book. I can just imagine Dorothy clicking the heels of her magical shoes and heading all around the world, until someone picks up a copy of The Wizard of Oz, and she is required for a scene. Furthermore, an assortment of weird additions are also added to the parallel universe of Thursday Next, Nenadatharls and Mammoths to name but a few.
There were so many hidden gems for literary fans, that this review won’t do Jasper Fforde justice. The Great Library is a dream come true for every writer or reader. An endless supply of books guarded by non-other than the Cheshire Cat. Who wouldn’t want to simply jump into fictional lands?
The Well of Lost Plots
Lost in a Good Book left readers with a cliffhanger. Therefore, I instantly began reading The Well of Lost Plots. I actually devoured the book within days. By comparison, The Eyre Affair took me over a month to complete. The third instalment was by far the most superior of the collection and certainly my favourite of the series.
What makes this book stand out for me was the use of literary jargon, as well as the use of classic fictional landscapes. The concept of living in a land where stories are not finished was truly intriguing, especially from a writers perspective. I adored the inhabitants called generics. Peculiar creatures who are forced to learn emotions in order to gain characteristics and in turn gain a chosen gender. It was all so cleverly conceived.
The fact that the literary world requires a Jurisdiction to keep all genres in check seems only logical. Indeed, it had me wishing for more hilarious antics from Thursday and different works from classical literature. I actually came out wondering if Heathcliffe was a murderer and what might happen without therapy sessions for the Wuthering Heights ensemble.
There are so many easter eggs for book lovers that listing them off would be a crime against the book. instead, I implore readers to find out what exactly is a grammasite, or maybe find out what happens when stories are never finished.
I am excited to finish the series! I can guarantee if you reach this far in reading you will be unable to turn back!