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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Woman who Died a Lot

by
Jasper Fforde


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Woman who Died a Lot



Title: The Woman who Died a Lot
Author: Jasper Fforde
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012
Length: 363 pages
Availability: The Woman who Died a Lot - US
The Woman who Died a Lot - UK
The Woman who Died a Lot - Canada
The Woman who Died a Lot - India
  • Now with 50% Added Subplot
  • A Thursday Next Novel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : less bookish than usual, but reliably inventive and enjoyable

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 27/8/2012 .
The Telegraph . 26/8/2012 David Langford


  From the Reviews:
  • "Fforde continues to show that his forte is absurdist humor" - Publishers Weekly

  • "Engaging lunacy." - David Langford, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Woman who Died a Lot is rather more grounded than previous Thursday Next novels -- there's nary a foray into the alter-reality of BookWorld, and even the time-traveling ChronoGuard (which Thursday's son, Friday, would have become a leading member of) has been disbanded (meaning there's no real time-travel -- beyond a short period in a zone where time moves at a slightly different pace). Yes, there have been some interesting advances into the possibility of advancing into the great beyond that is the Dark Reading Matter -- hitherto unexplorable -- and the Almighty himself (yes, it's a 'he') is shaking things up by showing himself again and threatening to smite the odd place every now and then -- including, unfortunately, Swindon, where Thursday and her family live -- but on the whole everything is rather more down to earth than usual.
       The Woman who Died a Lot is a week-in-the-life novel -- but it's certainly an action-packed and suspense-filled week. God has vowed to smite Swindon by the end of the week, so there's that to get ready for -- which includes Thursday's brilliant teenage daughter, Tuesday, trying to come up with a counter-measure (even as Thursday insists she also go to school and have a vaguely normal adolescence), as well as the evil super-powerful mega-corporation Goliath offering -- for a tidy price -- to guarantee smite-avoidance (though it's a horrific plan they have in mind to make that happen). Thursday's other child, the older Friday, has gotten a missive from the future giving him, in summary form, an account of his future as it would have been in the ChronoGuard, and now his future without it; unfortunately, the one he's destined to live is rather bleak, and involves him perpetrating an awful deed before the week is out (though with the time and exact nature of the deed conveniently precisely spelled out).
       Meanwhile, Thursday limps along and accepts a new position -- not as head of a re-formed Literary Detectives division, as she had hoped, but running the Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library Service (i.e. the local library). That has its own peculiar demands (not all of which Thursday is ideally suited to handle) but then Thursday has so much else to deal with that it's just one more thing on her plate.
       Throw in a mindworm that convinces her she has a third child, Jenny, who is really just a figment of her imagination -- and then have that mindworm move from family-member to family-member -- and toss in the occasional amazingly realistic (at least for a short period of time) Thursday-simulacra ... well, it makes for a busy week.
       Narrated by Thursday, part of the appeal of The Woman who Died a Lot is her philosophical take even in the direst circumstances. With her own mind not always in her own control -- there's that mindworm, there are those simulacra (in which her mind suddenly finds itself inhabiting an imitation-form of herself), and there are those helpful drug-patches to ease the physical pain which also affect her mind (especially those patches purchased on the street) -- and physically still somewhat hobbled by her injuries, Thursday has some difficulty in juggling all the things she has to juggle. But she deals with them, one after another and all together (there's a variety of overlap), not letting herself be thrown too far off track by the various distractions and catastrophes along the way, whether it's the aggressive nun who is still mad at her for stealing Landon (Thursday's husband) away from her to Goliath-man and longtime nemesis Jack Schitt's mysterious meddling.
       There's some nice library-love -- from the budget (when it's available) to Thursday's corporate car, bulletproof because patrons take their book-borrowing privileges seriously, and: "When the citizens can't get the books they want, they often vent their fury at the person in charge" -- and literary works do feature in the story, but this is among the least really bookish of the Thursday Next novels, which is a bit of a shame. Fforde is good with invention regardless of what the premise (though pulling in God for duty reeks a bit of desperation), but it's in the depths of BookWorld that he's at his best. Not surprisingly, one of the best exchanges is a nostalgic one as Thursday recalls her BookWorld-days:

     "I agree it's complicated," I said with a shrug. "Working in fiction does give one a somewhat tenuous hold on reality, but it's not the hold that's tenuous -- it's the reality: Which reality ? Whose reality ? Does it matter anyway ? And will there be cake ?"
     "And was there ?"
     "Was there what ?"
     "Cake."
     "Generally speaking, yes."
       Still, even without the cake, The Woman who Died a Lot is consistently agreeably entertaining and often quite clever, and a fine volume in the wonderful series.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 October 2012

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Links:

The Woman who Died a Lot: Reviews: Jasper Fforde: Other books by Jasper Fforde under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jasper Fforde lives in Wales.

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© 2012 the complete review

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