“Don’t ever call me mad, Mycroft. I’m not mad, I’m just…well, differently moralled, that’s all.”
- Acheron Hades
I received a copy of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair as a gift two Christmases ago, and now have finally gotten around to reading it. The first entry of Fforde’s Thursday Next novels introduces us to an alternate version of England in 1983 where things like time travel and genetically engineered dodos are relatively commonplace, and where English literature is taken seriously enough for an entire criminal racket of manuscript thievery and forgings to spring up. Our protagonist, Thursday Next, is a SpecOps agent belonging to a division investigating literary crimes. The theft of Martin Chuzzlewitt‘s autograph copy quickly sends her in pursuit of her arch nemesis and ex professor, Acheron Hades.
The Eyre Affair attempts to be two different things at once; it wants to be both an absurdist comedy and a slightly tongue-in-cheek crime thriller. These two goals do not completely mesh. For the first half of the book I was finding its world to be too random for me to feel invested in the plot and for goodness’ sake these characters have names like Victor Analogy and Jack Schitt.
That said, things fared better in the second half, mainly because the characters had been developed enough to feel like more than a cutesy joke, but also because once the titular Jane Eyre factors into the plot, the story becomes this delightfully weird meta-fanfiction.
Its fair to say that enjoyment of this book is directly proportional to one’s own degree of English lit geekdom.
Since this is not only the first in a series, but also Fforde’s first novel altogether, it may be that my problems here become smoothed over in future entries. Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to perhaps pick up the next one at some point.