Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair takes place in a world where the distinction between fiction and real life is blurrier than it is in the real world. People can enter works of fiction, they can chat with Rochester and they can see Wordsworth’s daffodils. And then a villain enters the scene. He’s kidnapping different fictional characters and detective Thursday must capture him before Jane Eyre – the character- is forever lost. 

This book made me laugh out loud many, many times – actually I was laughing so loud that people kept popping their heads in my room to ask what was funny. Well, what was it? It’s hard to explain as this book has many different humorous layers. For starters, there are the characters. There is this crazy genius, Thursday’s uncle, who invents things like a machine to erase memories (which, of course, he doesn’t remember ever having made) and grubs who can open portals to literary worlds by eating words. And in this world, literature is everywhere – I mean, really, everywhere. There are people who dispute if Shakespeare actually wrote his plays or someone else did, such as Bacon. These Baconians try to convert as many people as possible and when one of them tries to convince Thursday it goes as follows:

‘Hello!’ said the Baconian brightly. ‘Can I take a moment of your time?’
I answered slowly:
‘If you expect me to believe that a lawyer wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I must be dafter than I look.’
[…]
‘What about the will?’
‘The will?’ he echoed, slightly nervously. He was obviously hoping I wasn’t going to mention it.
‘Yes,’ I continued. ‘If Shakespeare were truly two people, then why would the Shakespeare in Stratford mention the London Shakespeare’s theatre colleagues Condell, Heming and Burbage in his will?’
The Baconian’s face fell.

And then there is Fforde’s writing. He creates a world that is like ours, but different. Here, people take their dogs out for walks. In Fforde’s, they take dodos. Because, well, why not? And you have different versions of dodos with all sorts of defects. The oldest versions are deaf or blind or die quickly. Thursday’s dodo, Pickwick, watches breakfast TV and makes very witty comments:

‘Plock-plock,’ said Pickwick nervously

Other than these humorous changes, Fforde also adopts different writing styles. For instance, when a romantic scene is about to happen, he switches to all sorts of cliches which he takes from romance novels.

If you like novels, think a world revolving around books is great, and if you think forging, stealing, or in other ways destroying a work of literature is the biggest crime ever, then read this book. In other words, if you’re a literature geek like me, you will laugh – oh, yes, laugh loudly you will – and you will love this novel.

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