The Eyre Affair Review
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From the first sentence of this book, you realize that reality has nothing to do with this plot.

"My father had a face that could stop a clock." The narrator, Thursday Next, means this literally. Her dad is "someone who had the power to reduce time to an ultraslow trickle." Right from the beginning, in other words, you know what you're in for, except you won't.

Apparently, we're dealing with a parallel London universe, where time travel and novel travel are both rare but possible. The flyleaf calls this a "delightful rabbit hole of a read," which is as good a description as you could get. Certainly there are parts that are delightful, like the notion that it would be possible to walk into the pages of a good book and meet the characters, which is certainly more attractive a notion with Jane Eyre than it would be with Edgar Allen Poe.

But the rabbit hole comparison to Alice in Wonderland is especially apt when it comes to comparing the two books on their effect on the reader. The characters are wonderful, the names memorable, such as Paige Turner or Braxton Hicks. What's not to like there? Unfortunately, the way rules of this universe differ from ours seems rather unpredictable and convenient, as if when the author writes Thursday into a pickle, he decides it's time to introduce a new rabbit hole so she can escape. Characters are introduced and dropped early on to provide a solution to a later problem, as one example. Others arrive in the nick of time and through mechanisms that aren't explained or introduced until that point.

As a means of comparison, consider the Harry Potter books. JK Rowling spent a lot of time in the first books of that series explaining the rules of that special place. Jasper Fforde hasn't done that here. Miracles happen when they need to happen. It would have been time well spent if he had explained the parameters for this world a little more fully. Without rules, the whole book feels like an experiment where the game is rigged. To become involved in a book, you have to understand how the place works, don't you? Yet if things happen without explanation, then the story continues and characters act without us. We're not involved, because we can't anticipate possible outcomes or resolutions. We continue to follow the narrator instead of walking beside her. So as a reader, I felt tossed out of the rabbit hole a couple of times by the end.

Still, the whole idea is fun, the plot keeps you coming back to the story to find out what happens, and I liked the ending, so try this one despite that one reservation. Maybe in the sequel, (fingers crossed) the author will spell things out a little better.

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