The Eyre Affair
by: Jasper Fforde
Penguin Books, New York, NY 2001
Jasper Fforde has a delightful literary world populated by Thursday Next who words for the Special Operations Network. That’s a government organization that deals with the repercussions of the literary world leaking over into what is essentially modern England.
Of course things are a little different too, like Wales as an independent state and the mega-corporation (the Goliath corporation) that controls most of the world. Thursday’s father was a SpecOps agent too. He worked in the ChronoGuard. When the literary world leaks, time travel and all of it’s potential and flaws leak as well. Someone needs to keep an eye on the historical time line. That would be ChronoGuard. They may, or may not always be successful. It certainly gives Fforde plenty of leeway for a world that isn’t “quite” the one we live in.
The world Fforde has evolved is a readers delight. People CARE about literature. Fforde writes with wit and literary allusions on every page. People change their names to match their favorite characters. Shakespeare machines recite scenes for a quarter on the street corners. I’ve read several of his novels from this series. I’ve probably even read this one before. That’s the problem.
These books are too clever by far. They engage, they entertain, but (at least for me) they don’t stick. I never find myself totally immersed in the story (although occasionally Fforde’s characters do). I’m too busy catching the references, laughing at the puns embedded in the character names, and even joining the debate about who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
When I read one of these novels I know I’m in for a quick romp with lots of nods to the reader on the side. They are great books for waiting rooms and long rides. I may pick one up from time to time just because I’m intrigued with the title. I’m never going to be a real fan.