The Eyre Affair

Sometimes it's the books I love the most that I have the hardest time writing reviews for.  There are certain titles that I just feel rather defensive or possessive about - the books which when others admit to not liking them, I almost feel a bit offended.  Does anyone else have works that they get this emotional about?  For me, one such book is The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

The bare bones of the plot is a mystery centered around a detective named Thursday Next who lives in an alternate version of England in the 1980's in which the Crimean War is still raging, time travel and dodo cloning are routine occurrences and literature is taken exceptionally seriously. In fact Thursday is no ordinary detective as she works for a low-in-the-pecking-order division of Special Ops - Literary Detection.  When the original manuscript of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen all of England is on alert.  And when the super villain targets not just the pages but the characters of Jane Eyre, Thursday must step in - into the story itself - to save Bronte's beloved classic. 

Now the story alone is enough reason for me to enjoy this one, but Fforde's writing is also peppered with wordplay, literary gags, and all sorts of humor for bibliophiles.  Yet, even saying that I know there are still plenty of readers that just never warmed to this book.  And I think I understand why.  The Eyre Affair is the ultimate example of a cross-genre book.  It's satire, mystery, science fiction, and humor.  Numerous classics are referenced, at least one chapter reads like a horror novel; there's a large plot involving time travel that might make your brain hurt if you over analyze it; not to mention a love story; and a good deal of political commentary criticizing war, corporations, and their all too intertwined relationship.  Many negative reviews I've read for the novel point out this mish-mash of details as distracting or unfocused, but to me it just demonstrates Fforde's suave pen at juggling so many seemingly disconnected genres and entwining them all into a clever and cohesive book. 

I first read this book after picking it up at a used bookstore in 2003 or 2004, but I recently reread it and enjoyed it just as much the second time around.  I look to Fforde's novels when I need a happy read, a book I can rely on to make me smile.  Along with picking up more of the jokes and classic references that I had forgotten or missed the first time, I liked this book even more now that I'm closer in age to the protagonist.  It was a fun book when I was ten years Thursday's junior but now that there's only a handful of years between us I can relate to her even more. 

What are your thoughts on The Eyre Affair?  Are you a fan or are you one of the people that failed to be impressed by it?  (You can be honest, I can take it!)  Do you ever have books that you're overly fond of or defensive about people liking?

7 Response to "The Eyre Affair"

  1. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    November 26, 2011 at 1:23 AM

    I've not actually read it, although I don't mind cross-genre. I'm not a big fan of 'in jokes' about books, so I think I might struggle with it for that reason.

  2. Anonymous Says:
    November 26, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    I love all of Fforde's books! I agree it's harder to write about a book you love -- but I also think Fforde is uniquely difficult to describe.

  3. Tif Sweeney says:
    November 26, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    I just recently read this book and loved it! I loved the word play. I loved the way Fforde crossed across all different kinds of genres. And, I loved the writing style. I can't wait to pick up more!

  4. ASmallBookReader says:
    November 26, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    This book has been on my "to-read" list for quite awhile. I admit, I love trying out the various Austen spin offs and when I saw this I thought it might be worth the read. The reviews are very much "love it" or "hate it" so I am one step closer to finding the book to read with your review in mind. Thanks!

  5. ASmallBookReader says:
    November 26, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Also, yes, I know it's not Austen, I just wanted to use that as an example since I haven't seen as much spin off with the Bronte's.

  6. Rebecca Chapman says:
    November 27, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    I love how you started your post! I am exactly the same. The books that I love I rarely review which is such a shame. I was going to do a post about it soon.

    The Eyre Affair and it's sequels are all books that I haven't reviewed simply because I don't feel like I can really capture how wonderfully fun they are (most of the time, he lost me a bit with The Well of Lost Plots). Fforde is hilarious. Have you tried his Jack Spratt series? I recently read the first book The Big Over Easy and I actually enjoyed it a little more than the Htursday Next series.

  7. Red says:
    November 29, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    I love Fforde and like you, I pick up his books when I need a read that's going to make me smile. This isn't my favorite in the Thursday Next series, but it's def a well-loved novel. And the cross-genre-ness of it is what I love so much, though I could see how it could give some people literary whiplash.

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