Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Eyre Affair

Installment #2 in the Book Reviews for Melanie series!

Yeah, I'm behind. To do two a month, I should do five more before much time passes...

Well, here's another quick, non-perfectionistic one to get the ball rolling. I started talking about The Eyre Affair on facebook, recommending it to Melanie, and it occurred to me that I should have said those things here, instead. So when I thought of more comments to add, I restrained myself. Melanie, here's the rest of what I have to say about it. Well, not the rest of what I have to say for all time and eternity, but you know. For the moment.

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1) by Jasper Fforde
Read: 2/12/13-2/18/13
Click here for my sister Sondy's review

The part from facebook:

So, I've only read the first one so far, The Eyre Affair, but I'm pretty sure it's among the most unique books I've read. It has... a bit of a familiar feel, but I think part of that is from the bits of the premise I've heard from other people. And partly because of the way anything really well done can feel familiar. I mean, it has time travel, alternate history (because of course! time travel!), a pliable barrier between fiction and reality occasionally allowing characters out and real people in, a world so full of bibliophiles that... well, put it this way:

"I was what we called an 'operative grad I' for SO-27, the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network based in London. It's way less flash than it sounds. Since 1980 the big criminal gangs had moved in on the lucrative literary market and we had much to do and few funds to do it with."

Okay, since I started, a couple other amusing bits:

"'So Napoleon won at Waterloo, did he?' he asked slowly and with great intensity.

'Of course not,' I replied. 'Field Marshal BlΓΌcher's timely intervention saved the day.'
I narrowed my eyes.
'This is all O-level history, Dad. What are you up to?'
'Well, it's a bit of a coincidence, wouldn't you say?'
'What is?'
'Nelson and Wellington, two great English national heroes both being shot early on during their most important and decisive battles.'
'What are you suggesting?'
'That French revisionists might be involved.'
'But it didn't affect the outcome of either battle,' I asserted. 'We still won on both occasions!'
'I never said they were good at it.'"

Making this even more funny (to me, anyway), it's a bit of a throwaway scene, seemingly at least. Doesn't have much to do with the plot of this book, though it definitely could be setting up some things later.

"'I have lots of hobbies.'
'Name one.'
'Yes, really. I'm currently painting a seascape.'
'How long has it taken you so far?'
'About seven years.'
'It must be very good.'
'It's a piece of crap.'"

"'Did the memory erasure device work, Uncle?'
'The what?'
'The memory erasure device. You were testing it when I last saw you.'
'Don't know what you're talking about, dear girl.'"

Technically I suppose it'd be fantasy or science fiction (with the time travel, and other things explained as science, SF I suppose), but it's normally shelved with general fiction, as it doesn't exactly feel like normal fantasy or sci-fi. But it's good. Invites comparisons to all sorts of other things, but isn't really quite like any of them. I think they're mostly brought up because it's unique, and thus hard to describe in the normal ways. So you have reviews that say things like, "...combines elements of Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking and Buffy the Vampire Slayer." (Wall Street Journal)

Now for the non-facebook part:

First, another fun quote:

"...Several people have asked me where I find the large quantity of prepositions that I need to keep my Bookworms fit and well. The answer is, of course, that I use omitted prepositions, of which, when mixed with dropped definite articles, make a nourishing food. There are a superabundance of these in the English language. Journey's end, for instance, has one omitted preposition and two definite articles: the end of the journey. There are many other examples, too, such as bedside (the side of the  bed) and streetcorner (the corner of the street), and so forth. If I run short I head to my local newspapers, where omitted prepositions can be found in The Toad's headlines every day. As for the worm's waste products, these are chiefly composed of apostrophes--something that is becoming a problem--I saw a notice yesterday that read: Cauliflower's, three shilling's each..."

Personally, I find the beginning bit about "omitted prepositions" a little silly, as the other is a perfectly viable alternative genitive form. But the bit about the headlines is amusing, and I definitely like the bit about the apostrophes as waste products!

The book reminded me a little, I thought, of The Phantom Tollbooth, but I wasn't very sure of that, as it's probably been decades since I've read it. (A problem to rectify, especially as it was one of my 2012 Christmas presents.) But I mentioned it to another friend who's read both, and she confirmed my suspicions. There are similarities. No wonder The Eyre Affair feels both so familiar and unique! Among other reasons.

Quite a whimsical, enjoyable book. Thoroughly fun. Especially the better you know your literature and history. I had a feeling there were many jokes I wasn't getting, but it works either way. Fforde scatters his jokes liberally, not pausing to make sure you get them, and there's no harm if you don't catch some. They only improve an already great read.

I like the style of the humor -- I thought the passages I quoted above were even more funny, given that, as I said for one of them, they were almost throwaway scenes, not made much of. He just goes on. After, "'Don't know what you're talking about, dear girl,'" they immediately talk about something completely different. It's awesome.

That style with the alternate history, too -- I love that we get Thursday's (the main character's) POV, not her father's (who time travels), and the changes are just things that seem normal to her. We don't even know her full "normal," how she'll react to her father's questions. Nor do we know which differences from our timeline will be a result of certain time tamperings, and which will be different before time travel actions. And which will just stay the way they are, or not be explained. It's all, as I said, pretty awesome. More than I'm making it sound.

I've heard some of the sequels are better, and I believe it -- don't get me wrong, this one is very good, but there's a feeling in it of potential, not fully tapped.

So go, read, have fun. I have so many books I'm in the middle of right now, but I really need to get my hands on the sequels.

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