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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Eyre Affair

Jasper Fforde

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To purchase The Eyre Affair

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001
Length: 374 pages
Availability: The Eyre Affair - US
The Eyre Affair - UK
The Eyre Affair - Canada
The Eyre Affair - India
L'Affaire Jane Eyre - France
Der Fall Jane Eyre - Deutschland
Il caso Jane Eyre - Italia
El caso de Jane Eyre - España

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Our Assessment:

B+ : inventive and entertaining

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Christian Science Monitor A 31/1/2002 Ron Charles
Daily Telegraph . 14/7/2001 Susanna Yager
FAZ . 7/6/2004 Marion Löhndorf
The Independent A 10/8/2001 C.S. Murray
The LA Times B+ 17/3/2002 Jamie James
The NY Times . 12/2/2002 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. A- 17/2/2002 Kera Bolonik
Salon . 24/1/2002 Laura Miller
San Francisco Chronicle B+ 24/2/2002 Michael Berry
The Times A- 28/7/2001 Vanora Bennett
USA Today . 21/2/2002 Whitney Matheson
Wall St. Journal . 12/2/2002 Tom Nolan
The Washington Post A 14/4/2002 Michael Dirda
Die Welt . 19/6/2004 Peter E. Müller
Die Zeit . 5/2/2004 Tobias Gohlis

  Review Consensus:

  Enthusiastic -- fun and clever

  From the Reviews:
  • "His debut novel, The Eyre Affair, is so clever, so loopy, so unabashedly ridiculous that students who hated Brontė's classic will be glad they read it, after all. And, needless to say, Jane's many fans will find this time-bending cloak-and-dagger romp a pure delight. (...) This is about as much fun as you can have in the classics section without being thrown out of the library." - Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor

  • "Jasper Fforde's fascinating first novel reads like a Jules Verne story told by Lewis Carroll." - Susanna Yager, Daily Telegraph

  • "Hemmungslos spinnt der Erzähler seine Welt der literarischen Fiktionen mit einer unendlichen Reihe von Einfällen aus. (...) Dafür bleiben dem Leser jedoch komplizierte psychologische Analysen vollkommen erspart. Die Figuren bleiben eindimensional wie in einem Comic -- und sollen wohl auch so sein." - Marion Löhndorf, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "What Fforde is pulling, of course, is a variation on a classic Monty Python gambit: the incongruous juxtaposition of low comedy and high erudition. Though not wholly original -- these days, what is ? -- this scam hasn't been pulled off with such off-hand finesse and manic verve since the Pythons shut up shop. The Eyre Affair is a silly book for smart people: postmodernism played as raw, howling farce." - Charles Shaar Murray, The Independent

  • "Overflowing with brazen joke thievery and appropriated plot devices, Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is a tour de force in its particular genre -- science fiction literary detective thriller -- as small as that genre may be. (...) The narrative moves at a breakneck pace. Readers who accept the principle of pastiche that underlies the novel's conception will be rewarded with a clever entertainment that works well both as an adventure yarn and as a witty sendup of contemporary trash media." - Jamie James, The Los Angeles Times

  • "(A) pop science fiction novel with brains and sass. (...) The Eyre Affair can be too clever by half, and fiction like this is certainly an acquired taste, but Fforde's verve is rarely less than infectious." - Kera Bolonik, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The Eyre Affair is mostly a collection of jokes, conceits and puzzles. It's smart, frisky and sheer catnip for former English majors" - Laura Miller, Salon

  • "(A) gonzo novel of literary detection and metafictional high jinks (.....) Fforde isn't one for rigorous extrapolation of the underlying principles of his alternate world. Pretty much anything goes -- lycanthropy, time travel, the cloning of dodos, conventions of half-mad John Milton enthusiasts. Most plot conflicts are resolved through improbable coincidence or outright deus ex machina. Sometimes the wackiness seems more than a little forced." - Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "At first this story seems almost too complicated to follow, and far too full of laboured student jokes. (...) But read on. It takes a while to get into it, but sooner or later it becomes clear that this is both more old-fashioned and more fun than the annoying Post-Modernist game that it might appear to be." - Vanora Bennett, The Times

  • "Fforde's imaginative novel will satiate readers looking for a Harry Potter-esque tale. Aside from Rowling's addictive prose, The Eyre Affair's literary wonderland recalls Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's series, the works of Lewis Carroll and Woody Allen's 'The Kugelmass Episode'." - Whitney Matheson, USA Today

  • "So, Dear Reader, suspend your disbelief, find a quiet corner and just surrender to the storytelling voice of the unstoppable, ever-resourceful Thursday Next (...) Oh yes. One last bit of good news: Report has it that Thursday will soon be back in other adventures. Some of us can hardly wait." - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

  • "Jasper Fforde, der ehemalige Kameramann, fabuliert sich mit überbordender Fantasie durch ein bilderreiches, bizarres, comichaftes, pythoneskes Krimiabenteuer (...) Und was nicht immer schlüssig ist, macht er mit absurden Ideen und skurrilen Wendungen wieder wett." - Peter E. Müller, Die Welt

  • "In England sind schon zwei weitere Bände mit Thursdays Abenteuern erschienen, wir müssen noch ein wenig warten, bis der schlaue, herrliche Spaß weitergeht." - Tobias Gohlis, Die Zeit

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 Eyre Affair is, above all else, a work of science fiction (though in the US it has been cleverly marketed to avoid that dreaded designation). It is set in England, in a different sort of post-Orwellian 1985. England and imperial Russia are still battling it out in a very protracted Crimean War, Wales is an independent country, and much of history as we know it unfolded quite differently.
       Technology too isn't quite like we know it. The preferred method of long distance travel is by airship (as in zeppelins), and things are a bit backward in other respects too. It's similar to the England of 1985 we are familiar with, but not quite the same.
       All is not entirely less advanced than the world we know. There's a bit of time travel going on -- and a ChronoGuard outfit to take care of things like time distortions that crop up ("a patch of bad time opened up near Tesco's in Wareham"). Cloning is popular (as are magazines such as the New Splicer), and dodos have been resurrected and have become popular pets. And there is the ominous mega-corporation, Goliath .....
       Much of the novel is narrated by Thursday Next, a LiteraTec -- i.e. an operative of the Literary Detection Division of the Special Operations Network. SO-27 isn't the most glamorous department (as the high number suggests), but literature is taken fairly seriously in this alternate reality. There are faked texts to root out, and there are those damn Baconians who keep trying to convince everyone that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays. Meanwhile, surrealism was only legalized four years earlier, to the dismay of the Raphaelites and others .....
       Thursday Next does get into a higher SpecOps section, as she is called in to help root out Acheron Hades, a man of pure evil ("I'm not mad, I'm just ... well, differently moralled, that's all ") who is apparently behind the theft of the manuscript of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. Hades has some unusual ... abilities. He is hard to kill, and doesn't appear on video surveillance tapes. He can change his appearance, and with his incredibly dominating personality can convince almost anyone to do almost anything. But Thursday once resisted him, so she might be able to help.
       Significant too is Thursday's uncle, Mycroft, who invents all sorts of neat things, none more powerful than the Prose Portal that allows one to step inside a work of fiction -- or pull someone out of it. The lines between fiction and reality turn out to be a bit more blurred than one might think, as Thursday already discovered in childhood. The Prose Portal makes the trip from the one to the other much simpler, and Acheron wants to take advantage of that. He kidnaps Mycroft and the invention, to employ it for his evil purposes.
       Martin Chuzzlewit is saved, but even more beloved Jane Eyre is next to be threatened. A Jane Eyre which might, at first, strike readers as being a bit off .....
       Thursday must come to the rescue, though the usual police techniques are only of limited use. Complications abound: dad keeps popping up and stopping time, Jack Schitt of the Goliath corporation insists on being in the know every step of the way, Thursday's old fiancé comes back into the picture, and there are bad war memories to deal with.

       Fforde has fashioned a wild, fantastical thriller. There are some terrible missteps along the way, including a dreadful meteorite-catching chapter, too much lingering war-melodrama, the ridiculous time-travel crap, lame arguments about who wrote Shakespeare's plays, and some Buffy the vampire-slayer knock-off adventures. Overall, however, the novel is an engaging one.
       There are also moments -- and specifically ideas -- of pure genius. A performance of Richard III, with all the actors always chosen from the audience, is inspired. Other small asides are also excellent, from the surrealist movement to the pets to the all too rare Will-Speak machines ("officially known as a Shakespeare Soliloquy Vending Automaton").
       Fforde's grasp of how much he can do and get away with isn't too sure. A scene in which Mycroft shows Thursday his inventions is typical: there's great stuff here -- the chameleon car and especially the translating carbon paper -- but other jokes fall flat. A memory erasure device makes for a lame joke, and the fate of Mycroft's assistant (after an attempt to synthesize methanol using, of all things, "egg white, heat and sugar") is too ridiculous. Mycroft's bookworms are also a bit too precious, but Fforde does have some fun with them later on.
       Much has been made of The Eyre Affair as a truly literary thriller, set in a literature obsessed society. Books are fairly prominent, and central to the crimes, but the focus on a super-literary society isn't quite as great as the publicity might lead one to believe. The local literary fanaticism crops up on occasion, but rarely comes across as truly convincing. And readers don't have to know their classics either: familiarity with Jane Eyre makes the story a bit more amusing, but is hardly necessary, and most of the rest of the book can be enjoyed almost as readily by those who have never read any literary work. The emphasis is far more on the thriller-part than the literary part.

       The Eyre Affair is an entertaining if somewhat rough novel. Fforde throws in every- and anything, from funny names -- Thursday Next, Jack Schitt, or Victor Analogy, among many others -- to far-fetched (and often ridiculous) science fiction ideas. Occasional restraint would have done wonders for the book, but fortunately Fforde does offer enough to make it worthwhile.

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The Eyre Affair: Reviews: Jasper Fforde: Other books by Jasper Fforde under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Jasper Fforde was born in 1961.

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© 2002-2024 the complete review

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