That was a wild, wild romp.
I have been meaning to dive into the Thursday Next series for years, and finally decided to take the plunge after MBD's review of the most recent installment in the series. I've read all of Fforde's Chronicles of Kazam, so I am familiar with his unique style, but even so, nothing really prepared me for this book.
Fforde dropped me directly into the world, with a minimum of exposition and almost no info-dumping. It isn't necessarily easy to figure out all of what is going on with the Spec Ops, and he seems to want his readers to be off-balance since he constantly throws curveballs into the narrative.
I do love books about books, though, so the premise of this series is just so delicious. And Fforde must be one of the most well-read writers currently working, because the book is plock full o'references to classic literature. The references to Shakespeare and the controversy as to the true identity of the playwright alone were voluminous and fascinating. About midway through the book I started highlighting the literary references, and then I found this GR list of all of the books mentioned in the Thursday Next series.
Poor Mr. Quaverly. Lost forever from the pages of Martin Chuzzlewit, a book which I am now going to have to read. I loved the conceit with the ending of Jane Eyre, as well.
I'm midway through another detective story, so I'm not going to start book two until I finish that one, but I found The Eyre Affair engaging enough that I definitely want to continue with the series! And even though this isn't technically a mystery, I'm counting it as one of the 50 crimes of summer!
Charmingly overplotted, this book is the definition of a fun romp.
A good friend has been bugging me for ages now to start this series because she adores it, and I'm glad I gave this one a try. I loved the sheer force of Thursday Next's personality, the way she just gets things done, the more than just slightly askew look at the world as we know it, the 80s feel (including postmodernist naming conventions), the brief instances of time travel, the book travel. The way actions had consequences and various shenanigans had to be hidden from major characters so they wouldn't show up in the text.
Some spoilers ahead.
I also enjoyed how there was so much going on. In recent years, it sometimes seems like every brain fart is turned into a trilogy, so it was refreshing just to delve into so much plot. There's a first stand-off with the major villain about 50 pages in, and if that isn't some generous writing, I don't know what is. The only thing I could have done without is the romance subplot. You're a male writer, and you create a kick-ass heroine who has her colleagues swooning over her, and then you give her a long-lost love interest. His occupation, of course? Writer. I haven't seen such an unnecessary author stand-in in a while.
Blatant fetishism of the main character aside, this book is lovely. I cackled when the ChronoGuard tries to make Thursday believe she's been gone for over 30 years, and while I wasn't as convinced by the next installment in the series, I can definitely recommend this.
Read in January 2017.