Do you know what it’s like to be completely absorbed in a book? The world around you seems dim and distant, you are totally focused on the story you’re reading, to the extent that the imagined world that you’ve entered seems almost real?
In The Eyre Affair, Fforde has created a world where it is possible to step into the stories you’re reading and interact with the characters, living in the story alongside them. The reverse is also possible; literary characters can step out of their stories and interact with their readers in the real world, or rather, the ‘real’ world created by Jasper Fforde.
This is set in an alternate version of England, sometime in the mid-1980s. This is a world of literary detectives, vampires, pet dodos and time travel. Our heroine is Thursday Next – one such literary detective, on the trail of the villain Acheron Hades who is planning to kidnap Jane Eyre from the pages of the novel and hold her to ransom. This sounds very silly, but it is also a very clever story, and that’s an irresistable combination. It really works as a thriller or crime drama, and is just as absorbing as any non-fantasy inspired thriller. It’s also on occasion laugh-out-loud funny, filled with puns, wordplay and literary references. Shakespeare and Dickens feature fairly heavily, as of course does Jane Eyre. If you’ve never read Jane Eyre before, I would recommend it before starting this book – you’ll get so much more out of it.
The Eyre Affair is one of my all-time favourite novels. I first read it over a decade ago and my enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed. Needless to say, I recommend you try this one.