Aug 052013

Hodderscape have asked me to be a part of their review project, so they’re going to be sending books to me and my fellow bloggers over the next year or so.

Much as I love doing the hundred words reviews, sometimes they’re a bit restrictive. Sometimes there’s a big but. Sometimes there’s a thing that I want to do more of.

So, several hundred word reviews. I’ll pick themes, packets, if you will, and do a hundred words on the rightness, wrongness, bonkersness, or even the @Patrick_Ness of the book. The point being, ideally, to say something useful in a short period of time, and not to waffle on too much.

Hence, The Eyre Affair, in 100 word blocks:

Is it for me?

The Eyre Affair isn’t for everyone. I don’t think it’s meant to be exclusive. It’s a fairly popular book, easy to read and fun, but it is an actual love letter from those who love language, literature, stories, and wordplay. Literary Detective Thursday Next teams up with her partner Bowden Cable (named for the cable used on bicycles) under the authority of boss Braxton Hicks (yes, the false contractions at the end of pregnancy). Their job is not to end the Crimean war, solve the mystery of Shakespeare’s authorship, or to apprehend supervillain Acheron Hades. Just to rescue Jane Eyre.

The world

The world this takes place in is Britain, 1985, but not like the Britain you’ve seen. The Crimean war is still going on, Thatcherlike. Literature is essentailly all culture: there is no sport, television, or film. One theatre has run, for decades, by running a participatory, Rocky Horror-style Richard III. Complete with audience participation, in-jokes, and a mixed-up cast. The world is so familiar, yet so bonkers, that it felt at first as through Fforde was creating on the fly anachronisms, just to make a point: the world is weirder than yours, and you don’t get to make the rules.

Style and language

The Eyre Affair is fun, light, irreverent, and deadly serious, all at once. Take the cleverness of Pratchett, but without the ineffable je ne sais quoi that annoys some people. It’s engaging, and funny, but there are some other, more interesting details in the text that show Fforde’s facility with language. There is – and this might be a bit of a spoiler, but the book was published twelve years ago – a gateway into books, and when Thursday steps into Brontë, the style shifts. Subtle, but there. Distinct from Wordsworth, and still Fforde, but playing with language, and getting it right.

So, wait, is it for me?

That’s your question? Likely, then, it’s not you. This isn’t a book for everyone; the people who love this book probably have at least a soft spot for Pratchett – even if he’s not their cuppa. They’ve probably considered the concurrent thoughts of a whale and a flowerpot as they fall through the sky on an alien planet, but might be just as likely to argue the merits of Jane Eyre as (anti)feminist icon down the pub. The clue is in the name: The Eyre Affair is easy to like, but a passion for literature is the key to its heart.

But what did you think of it?

It was great, but. I loved the maggots that thought about books and shat out ampersands and apostrophes, but didn’t love or believe Thursday’s relationship with doormat/rude arsehole Landon, though it does set up a very fun bit of ridiculousness-ex-machina towards the end. The book is very clever, and it is rather chuffed with itself, but it lets down characters, including the main villain Acheron Hades – who had so much potential, but – and Pickwick the Dodo, who is just sort of there. I’m in the audience that should have loved it, but I think I liked it. A lot. But.

Want it? Get it here (Amazon US), or here (Amazon UK) or, you know, ideally your local bookshop.