This is actually a re-read. My first introduction to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series came shortly after my 21st birthday, making it almost exactly 11 years ago. I’d gotten an enormous set of Waterstones book vouchers as a gift (#goals) and on a recommendation from the wonderful Terry Pratchett went ahead and bought the entire series.
It did not disappoint.
Zooming ahead to the end of May 2018, I felt the need to dip back into a reality that I like more than the one I am living in, and Ffordes book obsessed alt-UK was just what I needed.
The Eyre Affair is set in 1985, in an alternate reality that replaces pop stars, philosophers and even some religious figures with writers. Fanatical but friendly Baconists go door to door to ‘spread the good word’, ‘WillSpeak’ machines are dotted around railway stations and will quote Shakespeare for a few coins, and kids swap stickers of their favorite literary characters on street corners. It’s by no means a perfect world, there is war and politics and questionable business practices, but it is a world wrapped around a love of books.
Our heroin Thursday Next (Fforde loves punning and wordplay) is a member of the elite but underfunded SO-27, the Literary Detectives or LiteraTecs. Usually tasked with finding forgeries and stolen manuscripts, Thursday gets picked up by another department to help identify her old university professor and criminal mastermind Acheron Hades. Hades seems to possess mysterious powers of persuasion and illusion, and while in pursuit of him the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred.
Returning to her hometown of Swindon, Thursday finds out that her family has been caught up in Hades evil plan. Now she has to save her aunt and uncle, her country, and one of literature’s most beloved heroines all in one go.
This is a witty and whimsical detective story, like a grown-up JK Rowling, meets Monty Python. It is so gloriously full of magic and satire and humor, it’s just a joy to read.
I highly recommend picking up The Eyre Affair if you are ever in need of an escape from reality.