The seventh book I have chosen to read this summer is The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I never would have come across it if a friend of mine hadn’t linked me to the NPR list of the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books and said “Yeah, I basically read all of these when I was in high school.” I was moderately impressed and as I perused the list, I saw several titles I was familiar with, but this one was haltingly out of place. For anyone who knows me, they know that Jane Eyre is my favorite Victorian novel of all time. OF ALL TIME! So when I saw Miss Eyre’s name in the title of a sci-fi novel, I was more than intrigued. I HAD to read this book. So I hunted it down in my library and this is what I found:
I was hooked from the first chapter, but not because of the stellar writing or amazing plot. The setting is RIDICULOUS! It’s set in a parallel reality in 1980s England, where time travel is a real thing, loyalty to classic literature is basically religion if not at cult-level, and all manner of supernatural occurrences are taken as a matter course. The protagonist, a woman named Thursday Next, is a cop of sorts and her job is to stop a super-powerful maniac from defacing beloved works of literature by jumping into the original manuscripts and making a mess of things.
Now, as I said, the story begins in the realm of the ridiculous, but not in a bad way. In the SyFy-Channel Original sort of way. It reminded me of the same sort of strange reality in the 2009 2=part special “Alice“, which I absolutely loved in spite of, if not because of its absurdities. In fact. If there is somewhere to vote for a book to become a series on the SyFy Channel, Id’ nominate this one in a heartbeat. That’s how much I enjoyed the setting of this book.
Something else I found fun and interesting about this book was all of the interaction with classic English literature. Jane Eyre is not the only text we get to see in this world, nor, even, is it the first. My little English-major heart was warmed to see how much actual literary content was in the book. We read about everyone from Shakespeare to Wordsworth. It is one of the most creative ways to interact with classic literature I have ever encountered, and it didn’t hinder the story at all.
That being said, I didn’t necessarily enjoy The Eyre Affair as much as a book as I think I would have as a tv show. The plot drags out in a couple of places, and by 2/3 of the way through the book, I was really ready to be finished just because the majory story kept taking unexpected and often unnecessary detours. It’s the type of story that would translate very well to a show with weekly installments, but does not work quite as well in the form of a novel. The novel, however, is the first in a series of books that I’ve decided not to pursue. I was satisfied with the end of the first book and I am glad I read it, but I don’t feel the need to continue the story of Thursday Next, SpecOps agent..
What do you think? Would this story interest you? Have you ever read anything that made you think “This needs to be a tv show/movie!” And for you classic book lovers, what do you think of books that give modern takes on classics? Have you read any you think I would like? Happy Reading!
Regina, the Pensive Ponderer