I think I’m ready to talk about Jasper Fforde now. Well, not just about him, although I’m sure he’s a lovely person, but about his character Thursday Next and her first novel, The Eyre Affair. My first beef with this book is the flap, but since Mr. Fforde had nothing to do with that, I’ll go ahead and leave it alone.
Most of you already know how I feel since I’ve been spouting opinions since I started the book a week ago. Now that I’ve finished it, I’ve got more to say.
My overall feeling: the plot was good. It was original, it struck a cord (chord? what is the origin of this phrase?) with all readers who enjoy classic literature, and it ended well. As for character, I loved Thursday. She was the regular tough girl with a gun without feeling like a cliche. She had depth and a good reason to want to shoot things, but at the same time, she didn’t want to shoot things.
But I cannot get over how poorly this tale was told. The first line begins, “My father had a face that could stop a clock.” Forwith, her father keeps popping in, stopping clocks all over the place. But is her father relevant to the story? No. Does he give her a bit of insight that gives her a clue to the antagonist’s whereabouts? No. Does he embody this lovely sub-plot that is a metaphor for everything else that’s going on in the story? I don’t think so. He’s just there, asking random and irrelevant questions.
For the first twenty or so pages, my thought process was on a repeated loop of, “What the heck is going on?” Fforde does a great job of not explaining that he’s in this reality. Well, I guess the dodo bird kind of gave it away, but it is not that easy to just jump into an alternate reality like that and figure out what’s going on. Then for the next hundred or so pages my loop became, “Oh, this is where the story begins.” But it never did. That frustrated me. I would get really into what was going on, and then it turned out it was just a seguey into the real plot. Louis L’Amour says, “Start in the middle of the action.” It’s even a term, in media res. It doesn’t mean start in the middle of one action, then make it turn out that that action isn’t really important to the story. The actual point of the book, the “Eyre Affair” as it were, doesn’t even really begin until over halfway through the book. Granted, I liked the point of the book, and as aforementioned, I thought it ended really well, but I didn’t like taking forever to get there.
The last thing I’m going to comment on, and to me the most irritating, is the mechanics of the book. Mr. Fforde proves that he has a great knowledge of Point of View through his discussion of Jane Eyre and how it is written in the first person. Why, then, does he break these rules in his own book? Maybe he thought it was funny. I did not. There’s nothing funny about a first person book suddenly switching to third person and telling us things that the main character couldn’t possibly know. Dramatic irony is not an option in first person narrative. (Unless it’s like Forrest Gump.)
If you have read this book and agree or disagree with me, feel free to comment. I welcome discussion. I would like to like this book. I really would. Convince me that it’s worth it.