The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair  - Jasper Fforde

I adored the premise of this novel. In a vaguely dystopian, parallel-world version of 1985, a master criminal is kidnapping fictional characters and holding them to ransom. LiteraTec agent Thursday Next must rescue them before their stories can be changed forever.

Sounds fantastic, right? Characters leaving novels? People visiting fictional worlds? An alternative reality in which the Crimean War is still raging and where vending machines give out renditions of Shakespeare?

And it is. Fantastic, I mean. The plot is relatively well worked-out, as well, and there are some vaguely Douglas Adams-y passages like this one:

"In the early seventies he had developed an extraordinarily beautiful machine that did nothing more exciting than predict with staggering accuracy the number of pips in an unopened orange."

But for the most part the writing is, excuse the expletive, crap. The dialogue is frequently clunky and contrived (can you imagine a real person saying something like "I realised with a certain detached interest that I had been shot" in normal conversation, let alone under stressful conditions? No? Neither can I) and - and this is what annoyed me most - the novel continually cheats at narration. You see, it's nominally a first-person novel, told from the viewpoint of Thursday, but we keep seeing things that she could not possibly have experienced. Whole scenes at which Thursday is not present keep unreeling themselves across the metaphorical cinema screen that is the story, and even when she is around statements like "Henry Grubb secretly hoped that the war wouldn't end." Just to be clear - Henry Grubb is a newsreader whom Thursday does not know personally. How on earth does she know his secret hopes?

I was bitterly disappointed by The Eyre Affair. There was so much going for it, and it turned out decidedly average