Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

2001; 374 pages. Genres : a whole slew of them. Overall Rating : B+..

    "I was born on a Thursday, hence the name. My brother was born on a Monday, and they called him Anton - go figure. My mother was called Wednesday, but was born on a Sunday - I don't know why - and my father had no name at all - his identity and existence had been scrubbed by the ChronoGuard after he went rogue. To all intents and purposes he didn't exist at all. It didn't matter. He was always Dad to me."
    This is a unique and ambitious book. It incorporates at least eight genres - Romance, Alt. History (okay, "Parallel Universe" if you want to split hairs), Time Travel, Action-Thriller, Dimension Travel, Literary Fiction, Vampires, and last but not least, Satire.

.What's To Like...
    First of all, you don't need to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy this book. For us unread yokels, Fforde gives a brief synopsis of JE as the storyline heads "into" that book. If any of the aforementioned genres appeal to you, you'll find TEA a delight. And there's four more in the series (maybe five now), all involving classic literature rewrites.
    Other highlights : pet dodo birds; an independent Republic of Wales, a bunch of likeable good guys along with some interesting bad guys, some really kewl inventions by Thursday Next's Uncle Mycroft, and Shakespeare's Richard III done in a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" fashion.
    There are a few weaknesses. When you have eight genres and maybe a dozen plots and sub-plots flowing through the story, it is well nigh impossible to give enough attention to all of them. The time-travel seems superfluous, as does Wales' being an independent nation. Perhaps these are more fully developed in the sequels.

    .My gut feeling is that Fforde's ultimate goal in writing The Eyre Affair was to rewrite the ending to Jane Eyre. One can't just up and do that; people would call you presumptuous. So he invented an incredibly complex universe and storyline, and used them as a vehicle to alter the ending. Was Fforde successful in this? In my opinion, yes.

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