Review: The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2001

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How I discovered this book: Actually, it’s a long story, but to keep it simple… I first saw this book on a charity shop and the cover got my attention. For some reason, I thought it wasn’t worth reading and left the book where I found it. When I got home, I looked for it on Goodreads and went almost mad with regret after reading all the positive reviews. I searched for the book everywhere, and only found it again after several weeks of complete insanity. *Sometimes I can get a bit obsessed over a book getting away. I’m not proud of it. Good thing it doesn’t happen very often.*

Review: This reading experience showed me once more that I shouldn’t have incredibly high expectations over a book. When Goodreads said that this book is actually about books… Nay, what GR said it’s even better than that. The book is about people getting into books to solve crimes and mysteries. The book is about a Special Operations detective – Thursday Next – in an alternate universe, and she’s going to travel inside Jane Eyre to solve a mystery, while she is also falling in love! I love Jane Eyre, I love books, I love alternate sic fi/fantasy universes, I love “love stories”. You have to agree that for someone like me, The Eyre Affair seemed to be the perfect match. I was so excited about this book, and that ruined it a little for me.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is good, entertaining and funny. Jasper Fforde did an amazing work with the alternate universe he created for the story. The book takes us to an alternate England in the 80’s where everything is “colourful”. I mean, people are genuinely in love/obsessed with books and reading to the point of literary crime being something of national and international importance (there are people kidnapping books to demand ransoms!). In this alternate universe you can get inside books to stop villains (or just for a clandestine tourist visit). People seem obsessed with knowing who wrote Shakespeare’s plays. There’s even different clubs to argue the mystery (almost like religious cults). There’s time travel, bookworms (literally!), mad and brilliant scientists, Special Operations divisions for just about anything you can imagine. There’s werewolves and vampires. The most common pet seems to be the dodo!! I mean, there’s so much nonsense that it felt like I was going inside Alice’s Wonderland, and it was absolutely amazing.

However, despite finding this book’s universe really unique and creative, there were some things that put me off the book. There were just too much going on at the same time! I mean, you already have to take in a lot of information about this new deliciously crazy universe. Apart from that, you also have to catch up with Thursday’s personal life and traumas, the Crimea War that has gone for more than a century and has a huge impact in everyone, the invincible and terrible villain Acheron Hades, Thursday and Landen’s sweet and sour love life, the more than 30 Special Operations divisions, the under the counter dirty schemes of the huge financial Goliath Corporation, the Martin Chuzzlewit original manuscript theft (it’s a Charles Dickens book), the Jane Eyre abduction… It’s just too many lines of action for a single book, I think. Plus, I was so disappointed that the Jane Eyre “affair” only came up near the end of the book! I mean, that was supposed to be the main story, right?

Also, Landen and Thursday’s big love didn’t feel like it was so big after all. Or perhaps I just didn’t like Landen. He waited for the girl to come to terms with the dead of her brother for 10 years. When she finally comes back and starts talking to him, he gives up trying and decided to marry the first woman he sees passing by his door? Because he’s tired of waiting! I understand his frustration. Thursday’s reasons for not being with him were a little petty to me. If her brother did a mistake in the war, then he did it. Why would she want Landen to lie about it just to make her brother’s memory look well? He’s dead! All the people who suffered for his mistake are dead. What’s the point of lying about it? Anyway… their “romance” really annoyed me at some point.

Let me now complain about Acheron Hades. He’s probably the most ridiculous villain I’ve ever met. He kind of fit in the book’s atmosphere of nonsense… But, really, it was disappointing. The book tells me he is the most evil villain with the greatest magnificently brilliant evil mind of all time! The man is pure evil! Instead, I get one of those cartoon villains, that are just mean idiots with no real reason to be devilish. It’s as if he was just there to bring nonsensical chaos and give Thursday some purpose as an action heroine. He was an idiot, a big bully craving for attention. Sometimes funny, but mostly irritating and annoying. 

Overall: I liked The Eyre Affair, perhaps more than you may think after reading my review. I really don’t want to be too harsh on the book. Like I said, it was entertaining, funny and Fforde did a wonderful job writing this alternate universe. Most of the characters were “ok” as well. But the book was also disappointing. I expected to fall in love the it and I didn’t, because of all the reasons I already told you. At some point it was just too confusing, too messy. I blame it all on my immensely high expectations. I’m still interested on the rest of the series, though. It was a funny read, after all… And when I like a series’ universe I usually give it one more chance.


Quotes worth mentioning: 

“Religion isn’t the cause of wars, it’s the excuse.” 

“What is there to forgive?. . .Ignore forgive and concentrate on living. Life for you is short; far too short to allow small jealousies to infringe on the happiness which can be yours only for the briefest of times.” 

“The industrial age had only just begun; the planet had reached its Best Before date.”