The Eyre Affair

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The Eyre Affair  

A first edition cover
Author Jasper Fforde
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Thursday Next
Genre(s) Alternate history, fantasy, science fiction, mystery
Publisher Hodder and Stoughton
Publication date 19 July 2001
Media type print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 400
ISBN 0340820470
Followed by Lost in a Good Book

The Eyre Affair is the first published novel by British author Jasper Fforde, released by Hodder and Stoughton in 2001. It takes place in alternative 1985, where literary detective Thursday Next pursues a master criminal through the world of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.


[edit] Plot summary

In a parallel universe, England and Imperial Russia have fought the Crimean War for more than a century; England itself is a police state run by the Goliath Corporation (a powerful weapon-producing company with questionable morals); and Wales is a separate, socialist nation. The book's fictional version of Jane Eyre ends with Jane accompanying her cousin, St. John Rivers, to India in order to help him with his missionary work. Literary questions (especially the question of Shakespearean authorship) are debated so hotly that they inspire gang wars and murder.

Single, thirtysix, Crimean War veteran and literary detective Thursday Next lives in London with her pet dodo, Pickwick. As the story begins, Thursday is temporarily promoted to investigate the theft of the original manuscript of Charles Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit because she is one of the few people able to identify the thief, Acheron Hades. She comes close to capturing him during a stakeout, but is badly injured, saved by a copy of Jane Eyre that stops Hades' bullet. A mysterious stranger aids her until the paramedics arrive, leaving behind only a monogrammed handkerchief and jacket. Next recognizes these items as those of Rochester, a character from Jane Eyre, because she entered the novel as a child and briefly became acquainted with Rochester himself while she was there.

While recovering in hospital, Thursday is briefly visited by her future self, who instructs her to take the LiteraTec job in Swindon, her home town. Back at home, she catches up with her mother Wednesday, her Uncle Mycroft and his wife Polly. Mycroft invents literary technology and has created the Prose Portal, which allows people to enter works of fiction. Next also renews an acquaintance with her former fiancé Landen Parke-Laine (a reference to the British version of the board game Monopoly).

Hades kidnaps Mycroft, Polly, and the Prose Portal in order to blackmail the literary world; any changes made to the plot of a novel's original manuscript will change all other copies. When his demands are not met, Hades kills Mr Quaverley, a minor character from the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit. Next and a Goliath Corporation operative named Jack Schitt trace Hades to Wales and rescue Mycroft and the Prose Portal, but find that Polly is stuck in one of Wordsworth's poems of, and Hades has gone into the original text of Jane Eyre. Next pursues Hades into the text, and after much trouble, succeeds in killing him. In the process, Thornfield Hall is burned, Rochester's mad wife Bertha falls to her death, and Rochester himself is grievously injured (in other words, she alters the ending of the book to match what readers of The Eyre Affair will recognize as the actual ending to Jane Eyre).

Returning to her own world, Next uses the Prose Portal to release her Aunt Polly from the poem and to imprison Jack Schitt in the text of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". She shows up at the church where Landen is about to be married to another woman, but a lawyer interrupts and informs the attendants that the marriage cannot take place as the woman is currently married to someone else. Next and Parke-Laine are reconciled and get married.

Next's father, a renegade agent from SpecOps-12, the ChronoGuard, turns up at her wedding and temporarily stops time in order to dispense some fatherly advice to his daughter. The novel ends with Next facing an uncertain future at work: public reaction to the new ending for Jane Eyre is positive, but there are other repercussions.

[edit] Reception

Although The Eyre Affair was Fforde's first novel, and he had amassed 76 rejection slips from publishers for several earlier novels,[1][2] the book was generally acclaimed, with critics calling it "playfully irreverent,"[3] "delightfully daft,"[4] "whoppingly imaginative,"[5] and "a work of ... startling originality".[4]

The "genre-busting"[5] novel spans numerous types of literature, with critics identifying aspects of fantasy, science fiction, mystery, satire, romance, and thriller.[6][7] This led one critic to jokingly suggest that Fforde "must have jotted a bundle of unrelated ideas on slips of paper", and, "instead of tossing them in a hat and choosing a few topics as the focus of his story, [he] grabbed the whole hat."[8] Fforde's quirky writing style has led to comparisons with other notable writers, most frequently Douglas Adams,[2][5][6] for similar "surrealism and satire",[9] and Lewis Carroll,[6][10] for similar "nonsense and wordplay".[9] Reviewers have also made comparisons with other authors, including Woody Allen,[7][10] Sara Paretsky,[6] and Connie Willis.[9] One critic wondered if Fforde was more "Monty Python crossed with Terry Pratchett, or J.K. Rowling mixed with Douglas Adams."[2]

The novel was praised for its fast-paced action,[6][10] wordplay,[6][11] and "off-centre humour."[2] However, some reviewers did criticise it for "convoluted"[5] plots and "dangling details",[10] as well as inconsistent dialogue that "can veer from wittily wicked to non-sequitur"[6] and minor characters that "drift in and out of scenes".[10][5]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Coleman, Gary (2006-09-23). "Fractured Fairytales". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney).,ip,url,cpid&custid=noyork&db=rch&AN=200609231086443212&site=ehost-live. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Swiss Army Knife of Books". The Toronto Star. 2003-10-28.,ip,url,cpid&custid=noyork&db=rch&AN=6FP0946851778&site=ehost-live. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  3. ^ Wagner, Vit (2007-10-18). "His girl Thursday". The Toronto Star.,ip,url,cpid&custid=noyork&db=rch&AN=6FP1846554230&site=ehost-live. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Jeff (2002-07-21). ""The Eyre Affair" is original". The Post and Courier. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Ogle, Connie (2002-01-25). ""The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde". The Miami Herald. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Waldren, Murray (2002-09-21). "The Fforde Ffenomenon". The Australian.,ip,url,cpid&custid=noyork&db=rch&AN=200209211B10524639&site=ehost-live. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  7. ^ a b James, Jamie (2002-03-17). "The Paper Chase; They Eyre Affair". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  8. ^ Devores, Courtney (2002-03-15). ""The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  9. ^ a b c Halsall, Jane (October 2002). "The Eyre Affair". School Library Journal 48 (10): 196.,ip,url,cpid&custid=noyork&db=f5h&AN=7467131&site=ehost-live. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Matheson, Whiteny (2002-02-21). "'The Eyre Affair' is fanciful fun". USA Today. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  11. ^ Edwards, Jacqueline S. (September 2002). "The Eyre Affair". Kliatt: 52. "A wild, delightful romp for lovers of classic literature, history, action-adventure, SF and wordplay". 

[edit] Further reading

  • Hateley, Erica, "The End of The Eyre Affair: Jane Eyre, Parody, and Popular Culture", Journal of Popular Culture, 38:6 (2005 Nov), pp. 1022-36, ISSN 0022-3840
  • Horstkotte, Martin, The Postmodern Fantastic in Contemporary British Fiction, Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2004, ISBN 3-88476-679-1
  • Horstkotte, Martin, "The Worlds of the Fantastic Other in Postmodern English Fiction", Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, 14:3 (2003 Fall), pp. 318-32, ISSN 0897-0521
  • Lusty, Heather, "Struggling to Remember: War, Trauma, and the Adventures of Thursday Next", Popular Culture Review, 16:2 (2005 Summer), pp. 117-29, ISSN 1060-8125
  • Rubik, Margarete (ed.), A Breath of Fresh Eyre : Intertextual and Intermedial Reworkings of Jane Eyre, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007, ISBN 978-90-420-2212-6
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