Summary (from Goodreads):
Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.
We are told, and I tell my students, too, never to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what I did with this novel. The only reason I bought this novel was because of the title, which referenced one of my favorite novels of all time!
On the whole, Fforde’s parallel, surreal version of Great Britain did not disappoint. I very much enjoyed the time travel aspect of the novel, especially the random, unannounced visits by Thursday’s father, who can, literally, stop time. The other aspect that was entertaining was the ability of characters from novels to enter our world, while also some from our world also having the ability to travel into the novel of their choice – i.e. Mr. Rochester’s visit to assist Thursday Next when she’s injured; Thursday’s visit to Jane Eyre as a child; and, Mrs. Fukajima’s frequent visits and guided tours of Thornfield Park, to mention a few, which was reminiscent of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series (very good series – at least books one and two – three was a bit odd).
The third aspect that was enjoyable, and this has mostly to do with my age and where I am in my life, is that Thursday Next is an older heroine – mid-thirties, dealing with family issues (dead brother, absent father, absent minded uncle, a mother that’s desperate for grandchildren), and the heartache of the failed relationship (she still has feelings for the man, even after ten years!) – completely relatable.
However, for all this, it took me quite a while to finish this novel – not that’s any reason to not read the book. There are aspects of the story that I wish were more condensed, but then again, without it the round character of Thursday Next would not have been possible, I suppose.
All in all, I enjoyed this novel, and have ordered another by Jasper Fforde – he really is quite inventive – an author worth reading.
It would be interesting to see what a film version of this would look like …