The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

publication date: 2001
pages: 374
ISBN: 0-670-03064-3

The Eyre Affair came highly recommended to me by two people. The book follows Thursday Next, a literary detective living in England in 1985. However, Thursday Next’s England is somewhat different from the England we remember. In Thursday’s world, time travel is possible, England has been warring with Russia for decades in the Crimea, and the dodo is a popular house pet. Additionally, literary detectives like Thursday find employment solving crimes against, and even within, classic literature.

For most of this book, I was slightly confused or bewildered. There are several plot devices I think are supposed to be witty and humorous but I just thought they were stupid and pointless. For example, Thursday’s uncle, a scientist, bred worms to slither over the written word and somehow understand it. He names these creatures bookworms or, more specifically, HyperBookwormDoublePlusGood. Additionally, in this universe, the banana is a food invented by a woman named Anna Bannon. Fforde inserts little plot points or tidbits like these for reasons that I did not understand and did not find clever. And, in the case of the banana, this flippant change whitewashed over centuries of history concerning the banana industry.

Another chronic problem in the book is character names. I don’t think of myself as a character name purist or anything, but, as with other books I’ve read since starting this blog (e.g. Artemis Fowl, Black Dagger Brotherhood), I had a problem with the character names in The Eyre Affair. The villain’s last name is Hades. Characters who solved mysteries involving books have names like Paige Turner and Victor Analogy. A large corporation, which sold everything from food and clothes to the news and weapons, is called Goliath Corp. An attractive actress is known as Lola Vavoom. These names might be considered clever; I found them boring and insulting. I felt like Fforde is just using the names as a shortcut for effective character description. An unsavory character’s name is Jack Schitt. It’s like Fforde is saying, “No, trust me, even if you don’t think this Schitt guy is that bad, he’s really bad. I mean, look at his name!”

Notwithstanding the faults I found in the book, which go beyond the few I described above, Thursday Next is a satisfying character. I love that Fforde wrote a female character who still does many of the things male characters do. For example, Thursday generally refers to people by their last names. Additionally, one of the best parts of the book is Thursday’s reflections on her time as a soldier in the Crimean war. During these discussions, Thursday becomes a fully-developed, perfectly flawed character with a past, a present, and a future.

Even though this isn’t my favorite book, some people will like it, including readers of Douglas Adams and literature buffs.

3/6: more good than bad

other reviews:

New York Times
Salon
USA Today

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