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The Eyre Affair

We all enjoyed this book although the ‘off-the-wall’ ideas were a bit confusing for those that like their time frames and narratives to proceed in a logical fashion! Thursday Next, the heroine, is a detective investigating literary crimes, and as such first gets involved in the investigation of the disappearance of the manuscript of Dicken’s Martin Chuzzlewit, however things take a darker turn when one of the minor characters disappears from the novel, and then a threat to Jane Eyre emerges ….

The Eyre Affair is bursting with ideas including both time travel and the blurring of the boundary between reality and fiction – not that the world Jasper Fforde sets his book in is that close to reality: the Crimea War is still in progress, dodos are kept as pets and Wales is a separate socialist state. This meant that sometimes you find yourself confused, unsure of which are twists. There were anomalies that didn’t feel quite work – air transport still only by airship didn’t sit easily alongside gene manipulation which has brought back extinct creatures in different versions.

The idea that characters can be off doing whatever they like when not on ‘screen’ so to speak opens up lots of possibilities. One idea is tourism to well loved books – a Japanese lady is acting as a guide to Thornfield bringing tourists to visit, just making sure she (and they) don’t interact with the main action. We wondered which books we would choose to visit?

Ultimately the book (blending elements of the thriller, surrealism and classic literature) is a celebration of fiction and the new places it can transport us to if we suspend belief.

 

Other suggestions

Italo Calvino (1979) If on a winter’s night a traveller – ‘breathtakingly inventive’, ‘a meditation on reading, writers and writing’.

Terry Pratchett (1988) Wyrd Sisters – A parallel story to Macbeth, which manages to poke fun at the play, revere the play, make inside jokes about the play, and … well, generally turn the play on its head.

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