In The Eyre Affair, we meet Thursday Next, a detective who belongs to Special Operations 27 (SO-27), the Literary Detectives, who are in charge of investigating crimes related to, well, literature. One day, she gets a call from another more powerful special operations department (SO-5) and is tasked to help track one Acheron Hades, an elusive criminal who seems to have supernatural powers. Unfortunately, the operation goes wrong and she goes back to her hometown of Swindon again as an SO-27. Back as a literary detective, she gets assigned to track a missing character from one of Charles Dickens's lesser-known novels. Thursday eventually finds a connection between this particular crime and Hades, who also kidnaps Jane Eyre.
The world Fforde has conjured up for this novel is a bit too hard to swallow. There's something about adults messing with time and history that feels off for me, which I wouldn't feel if this were a young adult novel and the plot would be more quirky. I keep thinking about the ripple effect, wherein a particular change somewhere along the past would have severe consequences on the present and the future. Fforde's multi-thematic approach to The Eyre Affair (fantasy, sci-fi, literary fiction, crime) made me feel that the novel lacked a center.
Thursday has been described as part Bridget Jones, part Nancy Drew, and part Dirty Harry by many reviewers. Well, there's a subplot concerning her failed relationship and how she resolves it. There's the detective part, so I get the Nancy Drew comparison. The Dirty Harry analogy is a bit of a stretch though. Thursday is far too sentimental to pull off that tough detective character. Nevertheless, there's lots to love in Thursday -- her persistence, her wisecracks, her apparent talent to find herself in funny situations. She's something to watch out for.
Still, a lot of readers would have a blast reading about the various literary crimes the SO-27 detectives get involved in. If you're big on Shakespeare, you'd love their debates on the actual authorship of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. Fforde would also pique your interest on lesser-known literary works. And when you read that the ending of Jane Eyre has somehow been changed by the events, it makes you want to read (reread) the novel just to see if the "new ending" works.
The Eyre Affair is Fforde's Thursday Next novel. Most of my friends say that the series would get better eventually. Frankly, I'd just stick with my Elmore Leonard or, finally, read a Nancy Drew.
Read this book if:
- You feel specially connected to a fictional character.
- You're fond of strong heroines in novels.
- You love alternate histories.