EPS Review #84 - The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, Hodder and Stoughton 2001

I needed to fill up a minimum Amazon order for free shipping, and so threw in this SF/detective novel that Amazon recommended, probably on the Pratchett connection (he contributes a blurb: "Ingenious -- I'll watch Jasper Fforde nervously.") The idea of being able to enter the alternate universe of a book, and affect the plot, is a cute one. I think Woody Allen was first here, with his story about Emma Bovary (The Kugelmass Episode), where if I recall correctly, the protagonist ends up trapped in a Spanish textbook being chased by an irregular verb.

I wish Mr Fforde were really as clever as he thinks he is, never mind as funny as Woody Allen. Although I did laugh at a character named Braxton Hicks, I did not find the name Jack Schitt to be witty. Thursday Next, the female detective, is sympathetic, but awfully lucky, and awfully tough. At various points Fforde just drops the plot, solving a problem by ignoring it or by a particularly silly transition. My worry is that he thinks he is being so clever with gene-spliced dodos wandering around (to what end?) and all his literary references that he will make no effort to tighten up the story. Otherwise I would be tempted to get the next one, because I was absorbed by the book and wanted it to be good. But when I look at his smug website, I doubt the writing ever improves.

Nic wrote: Have you read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver? Best one for me in ages. It's the story of a bible-thumping missionary who takes his family to the Congo to 'save' the locals. His family consist of his wife and four girls and the story is told alternatively through the eyes of these 5. You might think that this might come across as 'tricksey', but she pulls it off. Hearing the tale through the thoughts of women of different ages works, as it enables one to piece together different - sometimes conflicting - accounts of their life in the jungle. It's a good tale, but also hugely illuminating on politics, religion, life, conditions and culture of equatorial Africa. It calls into question the western desire to 'improve the poor devils lives' and shows us up as a bunch of Parent (to their)-child, control freaks. It might be a tad uncomfortable, with it's parallels for Afganistan and Iraq, for the average citizen of the US of A to ingest, but I'm more than confident you don't qualify on this score! In any case, us Brits have little to crow about on the colonial front!!