It is 1985 and in this alternate Britain, literature is king. People go door to door to proselytize about the writer they thing truly wrote Shakespeare’s plays, for example. Other things are different too, the Crimean War has been on for over 100 years, and the Special Operations Network investigates everything from literary crime to temporal mishaps. Thursday Next is a highly regarded LitraTec agent, but even her expertise is challenged when evil genius mastermind Hades gains the ability to go into famous works of literature and change them, going so far as to kidnap Jane Eyre out of her eponymous book.
Imagine, if you will, that 1984 and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy got married and had a lit nerd baby. That baby would be The Eyre Affair. Honestly, I’m not really sure what you need to know more than that. Although Fforde’s Britain isn’t quite so dystopian as 1984, it definitely appears to owe elements to Orwell’s masterpiece. The The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comparisons come in to with the strands of whimsy and, well, oddness, running through Thursday’s world. Fforde takes particular joy in naming places and characters, using both literary in-jokes and pretty much anything that he finds funny. I was less than enthused about some of the non-literary joke-names, but overall it is very clever and fun.
Jasper Fforde sold me almost immediately on his alternate, literature-loving, slightly dytopian Britain. This was a very fun, smart book, and I can’t wait to continue the series.
I read “The Eyre Affair” in preparation for the most recent episode of our podcast, What’s Old is New, this one on “Jane Eyre.”
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