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.

3-5-stars

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.” 

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Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published by Scholastic, 2009

How I discovered this book: I discovered the book a few months before The Hunger Gamesmovie, and decided to read the trilogy before watching the movies. As Catching Fire will be in theatres by the end of the year, I thought that now was a good time to start reading the final two books of the trilogy.

Review: I have a thing for dystopian novels. One of my favourite books of all time is 1948, by George Orwell. I like to explore the social and political structures of a society that could as well be ours, if it isn’t already and we’re just to blind and distracted to see it. I like to read dystopias because they make me think and see the world around me differently. They’re usually heavy stuff, but sometimes you come across a dystopia like The Hunger Games, that has all that deep insightful concerns and rotten society characteristics of the genre, but is also really entertaining. Despite all the violence and poverty of the world of Panem, teenagers murdering each other, the book didn’t feel so heavy as others I have read. Suzanne Collins has a way of making me laugh in the middle of a war, while Katniss and Peeta are running for their lives, that kind of makes me concerned about my sanity. But seriously, she can pull the funniest situations in the middle of the arena, and also the greatest demonstrations of love, compassion and humanity between the characters. This being said, The Hunger Games was an awesome book and a part of me was a little bit worried that prolonging it would spoil what was already a really good story.

However, Catching Fire was a good sequel for me. I was dreading to read the book because several people told me it only gets worse after the 1st book, and I really don’t like cheesy love triangles, but the truth is that I really liked the direction the author took with this book. Yes, Katniss has her not so courageous moments in the beginning, whining a little bit over how her life is being reshaped after the Games, but who wouldn’t break a little with the pressure? It kind of annoys me that she doesn’t how she feels, towards Peeta and Gale because in truth I think she does and is just in denial. Nevertheless, I liked that she showed weakness, because that’s what being human is. To be desperate and lost and want to give up. To cry your eyes out because you see no way for you anymore. But at the end of the day you wash your face, straight up and face what’s coming with all the strength you got.

Another thing I liked about this book was the development of the political story of Panem. We get to know more about the other districts and how they are reacting to what happened in the end of the first book. We get a little pick of what’s behind the veil in District 13. President Snow is hideous as ever. And we also get a lot more of Katniss’s family dynamic and the development of her relationship with her mother (which is a plus!). We also have a new arena, (that was just amazing and unexpected to me!), new compelling characters (I absolutely loved Wiress and Beetee!! and I liked Finnick too) and lot’s of action.

About the Peeta vs Gale thing…I honestly like Peeta. I like his good-natured heart and his selfless way. I think he would be a good balance to Katniss. But honestly, in the middle of a bunch of life threatening situations, thinking about love and marriage isn’t really a priority. I agree with Katniss in this.

Overall: I really liked this sequel and I can’t wait to read Mockingjay. I’m hoping the final installment gives the trilogy a good closure. Well, let’s see how it goes when I start reading it.

3,5-5-stars

Quotes worth mentioning: 

“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead.The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”

“I really can’t think about kissing when I’ve got a rebellion to incite.”