Fforde, Jasper "The Eyre Affair" (Thursday Next 1) - 2001
I discovered this book because one of our book club members recommended it as a companion to our book club read "Jane Eyre". What a fantastic suggestion.
It is so difficult to put a label on this, it's' a detective story, a thriller, classic reading, alternate history, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, philosophy, religion, a love for word play, weird names, language (he even mentions Esperanto), satire, even a little romance mixed in, you name it, it's in here.
I loved his love for language, his word play. The funniest names appear. Not only is our heroine called Thursday Next, her boss is called Braxton Hicks, she works with Bowden Cable and Victor Analogy, then there is Paige Turner, and we don't want to forget the evil guys Jack Schitt as well as Acheron Hades and his brother Styx (I've been wondering what their father's name would be). With the help of a sort of "time machine", the heroine ventures into a classic novel and helps rewrite the end.
Hilarious! The Rocky Horror Picture Show makes its appearance as a Richard III play, there is a Global Standard Deity religion, various fans of classic authors carry out their feuds, one funny idea chases the other.
The advantage of alternate history - you don't have to be accurate. The disadvantage of science fiction - you have to be consequent. Jasper Fforde manages to combine the two and make the most interesting plot out of this. I especially enjoyed the many allusions to classic literature. Surreal.
I would definitely suggest to read "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë before this book. Not only is this one certainly more interesting if you've read the original but it also contains a lot of spoilers, you really don't want to know the end of the novel before you embark on it.
Still, I loved the book and will explore Thursday's' adventures further in "Lost in a Good Book", "The Well of Lost Plots", "Something Rotten", "First Among Sequels" and "One of our Thursdays is Missing".
From the back cover:
"There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where the Crimean war still rages, dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is deeply disappointed by the ending of 'Jane Eyre'. In this world there are no jet-liners or computers, but there are policemen who can travel across time, a Welsh republic, a great interest in all things literary - and a woman called Thursday Next.
In this utterly original and wonderfully funny first novel, Fforde has created a fiesty, loveable heroine and a plot of such richness and ingenuity that it will take your breath away."