This entire series has my name written all over it. A plucky, intelligent heroine. Literary references galore. Dry, sharp British humor. An alternate history where every single British citizen is obsessed with the written word to the point of religious zeal. Tongue-in-cheek character names that fit their eponymous charges perfectly. The essential involvement of one of my very favorite classics, Jane Eyre. And yet, for some reason, The Eyre Affair fell a bit flat for me. I still enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped. However, my hope is that my reading mood will have shifted by the time I continue with the series, and that Thursday’s series will become one of my favorites. It deserves to be.
“Take no heed of her…. She reads a lot of books.”
Thursday Next is a British agent working for their LiteraTec branch. Her job is to track down stolen literary manuscripts and keep forgeries off the streets. This isn’t the most exciting of government jobs but, as a returning veteran from the Crimean War, which has raged on for 131 years in this alternate history, Thursday doesn’t mind the quiet too terribly. She’s bored, but she’s safe. However, when she gets dragged into an investigation involving the original manuscript of Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit and a former professor of hers, life gets a whole lot more interesting.
“The barriers between reality and fiction are softer than we think; a bit like a frozen lake. Hundreds of people can walk across it, but then one evening a thin spot develops and someone falls through; the hole is frozen over by the following morning.”
I loved all of the literary references here. Speaking of which, I believe it’s pretty essential to have read Jane Eyre before reading this book, as its plot becomes so central to the story in the back half of The Eyre Affair. There was also a plethora of puns and grammatical wordplay, which was fun. However, there was something about the humor that felt a bit too self-satisfied for me to fully enjoy it. At any other time I would have probably loved it, but unfortunately it didn’t work for my current mood. The humor actually reminded me a bit of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which also fell a bit flat for me. I also got a bit lost in the bureaucracy and internal politics at work in Thursday’s Great Britain. I found myself becoming bored and skimming, which isn’t something I usually do. On the plus side, the characters were incredibly charming. I found Thursday’s time rogue of a father and mad inventor of an uncle particularly fascinating.
“Sometimes, a word succeeds beyond the wildest dreams of its creators, like a virus sent into the world to infect common speech.”
Even though I didn’t fully connect with The Eyre Affair, it was still largely enjoyable. I love the thought of a world where kids swap authors and poets like baseball cards, and where there are entire cults dedicated to different theories of Shakespearean authorship. I love the idea of a world in which Jane Eyre has a terrible ending, but is beloved anyway, and where neither time nor literature are set in stone. I’ll be interested to see where Thursday’s life goes next.