Review: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next #2)

 PAPERBACK; 372 P.
 HODDER & STOUGHTON, 2002
 SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

Disclaimer: As this is the second book in the series, the review might contain some unintended spoilers. I recommend you to read the first book (The Eyre Affair) first.

Thursday Next, literary detective and registered dodo owner begins her married life with the disturbing news that her husband of only a month drowned thirty-eight years ago, and no one but Thursday has any memory of him at all. Someone, somewhere, sometime, is responsible. Could it be the ubiquitous Goliath Corporation, who will stop at nothing to get their operative Jack Schitt out of ‘The Raven’ — the poem in which Thursday trapped him? Or are more sinister forces at work in Swindon?

Having barely caught her breath after The Eyre Affair, Thursday heads back into fiction to search for some answers. Along the way she finds herself helping Miss Havisham close narrative loopholes in Great Expectations, struggling for a deeper understanding of The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies and learning the truth about Larry the Lamb. Paper politicians, lost Shakespearean manuscripts, woolly mammoth migrations, a flurry of near-fatal coincidences and impending Armageddon are all part of a greater plan.

But whose? And why?

I read the first book in the Thursday Next series in November 2014 and adored it. Granted, it had it’s problems in terms of pacing, but I had such a blast reading about the adventures of the main protagonist Thursday.

Lost in a Good Book takes place a few months after the events of The Eyre Affair. Saving Jane Eyre has made Thursday famous, but she’s quickly growing tired of the monotonous PR – especially as she cannot tell what really happened. However, things are getting interesting at the SpecOps 27 (‘Literary Detectives’) when she and her partner come across a find of the century – an authentic manuscript of Cardenio, an unpublished Shakespeare play. Only moments later Thursday has two punctures, discovers a Skyrail ticket, and boards a train where all the other passengers are named Irma Cohen – a coincidence too great. The ride ends with Thursday being short by SpecOps operatives, but she is saved thanks to her time traveling father, who has bad news: The world will end on December 12, 8.23 PM. However, it isn’t until Thursday returns home and finds out that her husband has been eradicated that things x get tricky. Now Thursday has to find her way back into books in order to save her husband – and the world.

As you can probably guess from my attempt of summarising the premise of the book, Fforde isn’t slowing down. Lost in a Good Book is an intense page-turner that keeps throwing plot twists and hilarious literary references at you on every page. The main character is barely out of one scrape when the next one comes knocking. Nevertheless, the second book shows more character development on the part of the main character as well as the worlds of Jurisfiction, PROs and annotation phone – and yes, lots of fictional characters. The book features several scenes in Great Expectations as well as some in The Trial, both of which I have not read. I’ve seen the BBC adaptation of Great Expectations, so I was familiar with the story, but as I only had a rough idea of what The Trial was about, I did have some second thoughts about reading the chapters that dealt with the book. I did read those in the end and I’m now even more curious about the book!

All in all, Lost in a Good Book had me laughing out loud, teared me up, and made me look twice at all the minor characters in the books that I’ve read. Jasper Fforde’s imagination seems to be endless and I love the way he takes his readers on a trip round the impossible possibilities. I’d recommend it to fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy as well as to those who read the first book and enjoyed it – it only gets better.

4/5

“Lesson one in time travel, Thursday. First of all, we are all time travellers. The vast majority of us manage only one day per day.”

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Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next #1)

PAPERBACK; 373 P.
HODDER & STOUGHTON, 2001
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s Mr Big.

Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again…

Meet Thursday Next. She’s a 36-year old ex-military from the 100-year-old Crimean war between Russia and England, who is currently working in SpecOps division 27 in London. In short, she’s a literary detective fighting against manuscript forgeries and copyright criminals. Her father is a rogue time traveler, her uncle a scientist with a special interest in bookworms (literally worms), and she is the happy owner of a Dodo v1.2 called Pickwick. And this is not your typical England of the 1980s…

The Eyre Affair is a literary mystery, a hilarious action-filled adventure that does not go easy on you. From the very beginning of the book it constantly throws new things at the reader, whether it be time travelling shenanigans, literature fanatics that have taken into rioting because the opposing school of thought is claiming their hero is daft, question of the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays or simply the fact that there are new literary / political / pop culture references at every turn. For instance, the protagonist goes to see a very peculiar performance of Richard III, which clearly references the Rocky Horror Picture Show audience participation phenomenon. If I had not enjoyed this book as much as I did, I might venture to call it a tad pretentious. The protagonist in The Eyre Affair is a kick-ass female who often shoots first and thinks later. Most of the book rushes her from one job to another – often in the middle of a third – but there is also a subplot about her emotional baggage from the war.

If you cannot already tell, I adored The Eyre Affair. It was extremely entertaining with a clever concept and a challenging writing style. However, there are some issues that forced me to lower my rating. For one, the pacing of the book was a mess. Fforde does not give the reader any moments of contemplation or time to process the previous events, before he throws the protagonist into the next scrape. In addition, the book had way too many ideas and concepts that were merely touched upon and then thrown aside – like funny side notes or inside jokes – causing the overall structure to became very cluttered. If this had been a regular mystery novel, I probably would have thought it was poorly written. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story within a story aspects of the book very much and I will most definitely be continuing with the series. I’d highly recommend The Eyre Affair for friends of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series as well as to those who enjoy reading fiction within fiction within fiction. NOTE: Please read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë before this unless you want to spoil yourself big time.

4/5 

‘Malin and Sole look after all crimes regarding Shakespeare. … They keep an eye on forgery, illegal dealing and overtly free thespian interpretations. The actor in with them was Graham Huxtable. He was putting on a felonious one-man performance of Twelfth Night. Persistent offender. He’ll be fined and bound over. His Malvolio is truly frightful.’

My review of Lost in a Good Book (#2).