Alright. I'm leaving the five star ranking. I've been waffling back and forth to changing it to four, but really, for the creativity alone, this book deserves notice.
The Eyre Affair is Jasper Fforde's first novel, and what a novel it is. For starters, this is a dream for the average person who calls themselves a book lover... a literary fantasy where the boundary between the world in books and the "real" world is decidedly thinner than we think. For instance, in this novel, Thursday Next (our intrepid heroine) fights the forces of evil (archvillain Acheron Hades). Why is he evil? Well, with the use of a prose portal (developed by Thursday's own uncle), Acheron plans on entering the original manuscripts of beloved novels and murdering characters from within, thus removing them from all published versions of those works. That might be the gist of it, but that doesn't even touch on how interesting this world is... and so I've also pasted here whatever was printed on B&N:
The word "unique" is overused and frequently misused. Here, however, is an instance where it truly applies. But to call The Eyre Affair a unique first novel featuring a fearless fictional adventurer barely begins to tell the story. When asked to summarize his creation is a single sentence, Jasper Fforde described it as "a literary detective thriller with romantic overtones, mad-inventor uncles, aunts trapped in Wordsworth poems, global multinationals, scheming evildoers, an excursion inside the novel Jane Eyre, dodos, knight-errant-time-traveling fathers, and the answer to the eternal question: Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays?" Swindon, a traditionally tranquil English town, is the ironic setting for most of these oddball characters and peculiar goings-on; the year is 1985. Fforde spins his wildly imaginative crime caper in language every bit as ingenious as the madcap plot; his devilishly clever turns of phrase take the form of verbal puzzles, anagrams, and literary and cinematic in-jokes.
Long involved in the movie-making business, Fforde gives a starring role to Thursday Next, a captivating sleuth whose respect for literature matches that of her creator. The essence of Thursday's quest is the capture of Acheron Hades, a wily cad whose dastardly crime is murder of characters from the classics.
If that hasn't gotten you hooked, I don't know what to tell you. It's a really fun book to read. I'm going to keep re-reading the sequels now.
The first time I read this book, I was on a plane flying home from my freshman year at college for spring break. Aside from the fact that it was the first bit of reading I had selected for myself in quite a while (and let me tell you -- buying a hardcover book in college when it isn't for a class is a big deal), it was intelligent and creative and I remember looking up repeatedly and wondering why other other passengers on the plane weren't asking me why I was unable to contain my giddiness. "It's this wonderful book," I would have answered, showing them the cover but not relinquishing my hold.
Now I'm a little older and wiser, but while home this weekend and without a new book to read, I opted to re-read this one and I haven't felt disappointed by that decision yet. It may not be as mind-blowingly delightful as when I first discovered it, but I'm still thrilled with Fforde's incredibly original plotline.