Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Series: Thursday Next, #1
I loved this book more than I thought I would as I was reading through it. Much of it was rather predictable (at least to me), but that didn't tarnish its charm in the slightest. It didn't depend on suspense to make the story enjoyable, and actually managed in some ways to use this to a greater thematic advantage. Spoilers in the review.
So, Thursday Next works for a special crime unit that deals with literary crimes. This includes forgeries, bad adaptations of Shakespeare, and many other rather boring things. At one point, she points out that her badge is about as useful as a bus pass.
But because one of her lecturers in school is now a wanted criminal, and she's the only one who knows what he looks like (he doesn't show up on film, among other talents), she's brought into a more secreter group of her special services group. Everyone is then convinced that the wanted criminal died in the investigation, and as she becomes more and more convinced that he is involved in specific literary crimes, people think she can't let go.
Her uncle, who created a machine that allows you to literally step into the book, is kidnapped so that the criminal can step into a novel with the original manuscript, which then changes every subsequent version, as they're all based off of that one. There's a lot of buildup to this, which I found strange, as it was obvious at the start to me.
Anyway, that's not the point. Basically, the criminal takes Jane Eyre hostage and Thursday Next has to come up with a clever way to save Jane Eyre. In doing so, she changes the end of the book to a happier ending, a change several people pointed out would be more fitting.
Then, we deal with a rather naïve denouement, in which things are wrapped up in a "happily for now," with a lot of feel-goods. Normally, this would bother me a bit, but instead, I saw that this is exactly what the book needed. It so heavily encapsulates what's been going on; so many people found a need for this, a satisfactory, happy ending that seems to intuitively extend from the plot. Which is exactly what this is.
Now, while that's pretty meta, there's a lot of simpler stuff that really makes the book worthwhile. It's pretty self-aware, pointing out and somewhat mending some of the seams in the worldbuilding, and with plenty of puns to boot. I'm really a sucker for puns, but appreciate good ones better than bad ones, and these are good.
My only sadness reading this book is that I'd much rather have read it with more background reading intact. While I felt like my Shakespeare was up to snuff (growing up with an English Renaissance PhD helps in that) and my Austen was fine, my Dickens and Brontë were woefully inadequate. Which is all the more saddening, as they feature far more heavily.
I'm definitely looking forward to the next Thursday Next book. I'm interested in seeing if the meta-level commentary in this book continues in the next, or if I'm overreaching.