The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Super smart, witty and full of what ifs, this book was so much more complex and full than I expected. Revamping the classics is kind of a trend right now, what with the YouTube vlogs like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, to the monster retellings likeSense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, to the tv shows like Sherlock. I love these retellings that are giving new life to great works of literature and introducing them to new audiences. Sometimes they can be a bit forced though, and since they are adaptations, the story is predictable. This book, on the other hand, is far from predictable.
The Eyre Affair is set in an alternate earth, one where bananas don’t exist, where genetically recreated did birds are the most popular pet, and where literature is the driving force of all society. Now that may sound a bit preposterous, dull even, but Jasper Fforde creates this world so thoroughly that it is almost easy to see it being possible. The story revolves around Thursday Next, a woman who works as a Literatec— a kind of literary police that protect works from being altered. Thursday Next is good at her job, and she likes it, but she quickly gets involved in a case that stumps everyone, where an original manuscript is stolen and the culprit is the most dangerous man in the world. Her life instantly turns upside down and she is forced to change jobs, move towns, and even time travel to investigate this case.
I don’t want to say much more because the glory of the story is in the unfolding of the world that Fforde creates, complete with its culture. I love how his characters are so real, yet they live in a world that seems ridiculous to us, where the most famous celebrities are authors who have been dead for decades in a society that is obsessed with literature. It does make a good commentary on the ridiculous nature of our pop culture, and the fads that we love and participate in. This book is not exactly a light read though. While the mystery aspect is appealing to most readers, it includes a lot of grammatical and literary terminology and jokes that only hose who have studied language and literature will catch. It also mentions a lot of authors and history, so it is necessary to be familiar with that too. However , Fforde is excellent at summarizing the main works of literature, such as Jane Eyre, from where the title is taken, and Martin Chuzzlewit, which makes a hefty appearance as well. I loved reading this excellent novel, and I cannot wait to get the next ones in the series. Many thanks to my fellow literature nerd, Hannah, for introducing this title to me, and for sending me her extra copy all the way to Alaska! She truly understands the importance of a good story 😉