The Eyre Affair

“True and baseless evil is as rare as the purest good.”

Jasper Fforde

Hello again, Constant Reader, from the Not-So-Constant English Student. It has been a very stressful couple of weeks, is all I can say. I’m back for today and tomorrow, and then I’ll be swanning off again to the Book Depository, where there…is…no…Internet…


Anyway. Today I’m reviewing The Eyre Affair, recommended by the Scot, a sort-of crime novel about one Acheron Hades, who steals fictional characters from books, and his nemesis Thursday Next, who must try to rescue said fictional characters.

There was so much going for this book. The premise (people travelling in and out of books! fictional characters crossing into the real world!); the lovely cover art; even an approving comment from the great Terry Pratchett. I wanted so much to like this book. The world that Fforde has created is remarkable and fascinating: a world in which classic literature (Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Milton) has the same kind of following that shows like Doctor Who and The X Factor have today; a world in which the Crimean War still rages, 139 years after it started; a world in which the shady Goliath Corporation stands behind British politics. The plot is well thought-out and interesting. But, oh my God, the writing is just heinous. It’s clunky at best and at worst almost too annoying to read. I cannot imagine anyone talking like Thursday and her compatriots do.

Possibly the most annoying thing about this novel, however, is the way it cheats at narration. It’s supposedly a first-person novel – narrated from Thursday’s viewpoint – yet it continually says things that Thursday just could not know. An example:

Henry Grubb…secretly hoped that the war wouldn’t end.

Just to make things clear: Henry Grubb is a news reporter with an extremely minor role in the story who, crucially, Thursday does not know personally. Yet, apparently, she knows his “secret” wishes! In what universe does that work?

The Eyre Affair could have been a wonderful book, it really could. But I can’t ignore the fact that the writing is awful. I’m afraid I won’t be reading the rest of the Thursday Next series. (Yes, somehow Fforde has managed to publish THREE MORE of these novels. How?)


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