Have an appetite for something original?   Look no further than “The Eyre Affair“.   Indulge in absurd reality to enjoy Fforde’s imaginative inventiveness and wry wit.

Author           :  Jasper Fforde

Date of Publication :  February 25, 2003

Publisher     :  Penguin

ISBN-10        : 0142001805

ISBN-13       : 978-0142001806

No. of Pages   :  384

The Story :

Fforde’s Britain is a surreal state where vampires and time travel are common realities; excursions into alternate worlds in books are possible; different versions of dodos can be had from a store; and bookworms are actual worms that feed on words.

This is the world of Thursday Next, a special operative of LiteraTec, a government agency in charge of, well, keeping everything literary, safe and intact. Thursday is a feisty, no-nonsense yet feminine literary cop who finds herself facing her greatest nemesis, Acheron Hades, the worst villain of all time.

A true villain who revels in being “differently moraled”,  Acheron is a SpecOps nightmare.  His latest caper, stealing the original Chuzzlewit manuscript and having his minion enter its literary portal to kidnap Mr. Quaverly for execution, has  Britain in an uproar, as the Dickens’ story is changed forever.

Thursday  Next must stop him as he sets his sights on his next victim,  Jane Eyre.  She must enter  Jane’s world to protect her, rid the world of Hades, and  thus preserve literature as it should be.

The Review :

Surreal yet charmingly quirky, Fforde’s novel is either a book one will really enjoy or a book a reader just cannot get into.    Fforde’s fantasy is just so different that one must like the wacky, the funny, and the outlandish to enjoy his world.

The heroine, Thursday Next, is a lovable  oxymoronic character, both vulnerable and tough.  This successful blend of opposite qualities renders her immediately endearing.  His villain, Acheron Hades,  is a unique sort whose amorality, style, and total contentment of his heinous nature makes him darkly fun and perpetually intriguing.

Fforde begins each chapter with little excerpts from writings of fictitious personalities from his world.  These  set the mood or clue the reader in on the chapter’s background— quite good devices for giving more information and rounding out the sections quite well.

To Read Or Not To Read :

It would be nice if one is more familiar with the literary works and authors Fforde liberally sprinkles references to throughout.  Unfamiliarity with them though, will not detract the reader from enjoying this humorously crafted oddball of a novel.

However, read only if you are inclined toward something really off the beaten track.   Don’t pick this up if you are annoyed, not in the mood for the surreal, or just do not fancy anything fantastical at the moment.  You may just miss Fforde’s clever prose and unusual wit (this, together with his fertile imagination defines his writing style) which requires a certain lightheartedness to appreciate it.

In A Nutshell :

The Eyre Affair”  is Jasper Fforde’s first novel, a cocktail of mystery, fantasy, suspense, murder, comedy and romance.  Its bold but successful concoction shows Fforde’s brilliant writing talent and guts in daring to push literary barriers.

My Mark :  Outstanding

Author : Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife is an extraordinary romantic fantasy written from two viewpoints: Henry who is a forced time traveler and his wife Clare, a normal person who has to adjust her life around Henry’s strange one.

Henry is diagnosed with a rare gene disorder that yanks him uncontrollably backward or forward into various times in his life.  At one point, he meets his eight-year old self and has a conversation with him over a mug of Ovaltine.  He meets Clare when she is six, and he, thirty six.

My hat off to Audrey Niffeneger for fearlessly setting up this complicated time traveling stage to tell a poignant but highly original love story.  It is quite difficult to build a cohesive and seamless narrative that needs to take place in different times of each character’s life.  But Ms. Niffeneger does the job brilliantly, with good sequencing and references to date, time, and ages  so that the reader is not forced to wallow through what would otherwise have been a confusing mess in less skillful hands.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is not for everyone, though.  One either loves it or hates it.  Those who dislike it can find it annoyingly unrealistic, ridiculous, and maybe even boring.   I happen to fall under the I LOVE IT category.

Despite the book’s surrealism, this is by far one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.  Observer’s review says, ” At its core, The Time Traveler’s Wife is an old fashioned love story….”  Indeed it is.  Central to the entire book is Henry and Clare’s enduring love.  This, and the unusual way the author chose to tell a love story is what, for me,  makes this book a keeper.

My favorite part : Henry’s letter to Clare.  An excerpt:

“….Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you.  Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could never trust.  Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself : as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you….”

It’s a wonderful letter.  There’s more in it, of course, but I wouldn’t want to give it all away.

If you’re in the mood for reading something different, pick up this book.  I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, but you’ll certainly not be getting a run-of-the-mill kind of story.

My Mark : Excellent