A few years ago, one of my best friends recommended The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde , and it was only this year that I rediscovered it on a pile of books in my room. It’s challenging to summarize, as it is, at once, about: literary detectives, time travel, alternative realities, an on again romance that is slightly out of reach, and a world where your passion for a book can peel back its pages, and allow you to create new life inside of it. My experience with this novel was one that can only be described as a delicious tumble down a rabbit hole. Jasper Fforde’s imagination is a whirlwind that has crafted a gorgeous and comedic reimagining of our world rife with love of literature.
When I first started reading The Eyre Affair, I’ll admit that it felt a bit like whiplash. A world that looks and feels like our own, but is slightly askew from a historical and a literary standpoint. It feels like present day, but seemed steeped with the insatiable technological and scientific curiosity of the 19th Century (e.g. My favorite “Museum of Natural History” moments were those that allowed for Dodo’s to exist…because Pickwick is my friend). Once I allowed myself to jump into this inventive reimagining, I decided that it’s a novel best read without any knowledge of Jasper Fforde’s world. It hardly every felt predictable, and there are so many little gems to discover along the way about books and authors, that my bluestocking heart was aflutter. I loved the campy literary movements that characters form for specific authors, animatronic Shakespearian robots that break into soliloquy for little more than a pence, constant discussion over the identity of Shakespeare, a black market for falsified manuscripts of classic works, literally so many gems!
Thursday Next is an operative, a war veteran, and a literary detective with so much heart and charm and wit…I could go on. I enjoyed how sarcastic she could be in one breath, and in the next just as head over heels for her favorite books as any of us. I loved going on this inexplicable adventure with her, experiencing Jane Eyre with new eyes, and watching as she takes on one of the most formidable foes next to the infamous Moriarty himself, Acheron Hades. He’s something else…evil for evil’s sake. But, Thursday takes him on for the fate of our world, her family, and (most importantly) the fate of one Miss Jane Eyre.
I’ve tried very hard not to let any of the crucial gems out of the bag in this review, to preserve the magic that happens when you just allow yourself to be taken over by a book. There aren’t many books out there that remind you how delightful literature truly is, and fewer still that do it with the pizzaz and talent that Mr. Fforde brings. I’m sad that it’s taken me so long to read his work, but I’m a believer that some books fall into your life for specific seasons.
This is a bottomless mug of tea, ladies and gentleman. Go forth and drink!