Wednesday, July 02, 2008
About a year ago, Rich and I first read the Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde (yes, that's how it's spelled). I had seen it mentioned somewhere as a cross between Jane Eyre and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Well, I like both books, so I thought I'd give it a try. Our library had it, so I put it on hold. Then, I read that it was the intersection of literature and science fiction, and I thought this had the potential to be wretchedly awful or amazingly good. Fortunately for us, it was the second. I read the first chapter, realized that Rich would find it hilarious, and went back and started reading it aloud. We enjoyed that quite a bit.
It is hard to find modern fiction that is worth anything, so this was a nice surprise for us. Then, we found out that it was a series, so we got the second one and started reading it aloud, but that was early in the pregnancy and I was sleeping all the time, so I kept missing parts and having to reread them. Eventually, I just read the book myself, leaving Rich hanging. So, now I'm reading the Well of Lost Plots and he's reading Lost in a Good Book. Every time I laugh or say OH NO! he tells me not to tell him what it's about.
These books are about an alternative universe, pretty much like our own earth, but with some differences. The Crimean war is still going on, there is time travel, Wales has become its own republic, much in the model of the Communist Eastern Bloc, there are roving bands of literary gangs, and a set of special operatives who deal with them. You do need to have a working understanding of Western literature to get these books, not just the great books, but mythology, children's stories and nursery rhymes as well. If you haven't read Jane Eyre, for instance, the first book might be interesting and funny, but you'll miss the main point. If you know nothing of Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Tennyson, Poe, Tolstoy, etc, you'll miss a whole lot in the books, and they won't be as funny or make as much sense (the author does seem to mainly focus on British authors and poets, though). By the way, the same author has a mystery series out that is based on nursery rhymes. I haven't read them yet, but his other books are so well written that I have great hopes for them.
The characters are well developed, the writing is interesting and the humor is great. There are numerous literary references, and all sorts of little intelligent jokes spread throughout the books. All in all one of the better pieces of modern fiction we've read in a long time. I am highly critical of anything written after 1945, and mostly read older books because of that (with the exception of my happy little murders), but this series has satisfied most of my requirements for good books. Anyway, I thought I'd put that out for other people who may or may not have discovered these books yet. They aren't great literature, but they are definitely good books, worthwhile reading that is intelligent, creative and humorous.
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