Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To Be Filed Under "Whatever"

As you can see, I'm not really sure how to classify this series of books.  By Jasper Fforde, the Thursday Next series features Thursday, the eponymous heroine, as a Jurisfiction agent.  She does live in the real world, but can also pass into the BookWorld.  By the way, the real world in this series is a parallel universe to begin with.  The parallel England in which the stories take place is one in which literature is highly valued; Shakespeare plays (especially Richard III) are considered the epitome of popular entertainment.  People so often wish to change their names to famous authors that they require a number after each name to differentiate. 

These books are really bizarre.  Sorry, I can't think of any other word that defines this genre.  Part mystery fiction, part fantasy, part horror (if your idea of horror includes fictional characters erasing other fictional characters from other books), the line between reality and literature here is very thin to begin with, and gets thinner.

In The Eyre Affair, Thursday pursues a master criminal through the pages of -- what else? -- Jane Eyre.  One of the results of this is Thursday's inadvertent adjustment of the plot line.  This, the first Thursday novel, is just the beginning of a romp through a BookWorld peopled with literary characters, and peppered with literary allusions.  Those of you who feel lovely and superior when you pick up on one of those will love these books.  The Eyre Affair is followed by Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, and the most recent one, One of Our Thursdays is Missing.  I will admit being a little disappointed with the last one, as the real Thursday does not appear at all and the book is narrated by the character who plays the fictional Thursday in the books written about her.  I know, this makes very little sense.

Fforde is also the author of a spinoff series starring Jack Spratt as an investigator in the same world.  This series is called, unsurprisingly, the Nursery Rhyme Series, and it begins with The Big Over Easy.  The second one, The Fourth Bear, is actually better than the first, and I believe a third is in the works.

Just as an aside, if you love a book full of literary allusions, you shouldn't miss the mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers.  Her primary character, Lord Peter Wimsey, never misses a chance to show how well-read he is, and her mysteries are both immaculately crafted and beautifully written.  I believe she is a classical scholar as well; she translated Dante.  This explains a lot.  Enjoy!

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