Everything about this book attracted me from the start. The cover, the synopsis, the concept of the plot (book detectives?! I’m game). I was so excited about it that after finishing Murder is Easy, I finally broke my Agatha Christie streak in order to start on this one. I did not regret it.
Every once in a while, you come across a book with a world that pushes all the right buttons. The Eyre Affair is one of them. Set in an AU literature-crazy England, the world Fforde creates is vibrant, multi-layered and extremely entertaining. I was drawn in from the start! It proposes an alternate version of history, whereby Crimea is still a thing and not unlike our real world, a hundred-year-old war rages on for the ownership of that peninsula. Now, I’m not really into reading anything war-related, but the war provides something of a viable backdrop to this crazy world. Though the premise sounds fantasy-like, it isn’t all roses and unicorns in this world.
People take sides very vehemently on different literary issues in this world, for e.g. the existence of Baconians, people who believe that Sir Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. The Baconians go around knocking on doors and giving out pamphlets to the public in order to “convert” them to their belief… sound familiar? The true authorship of Shakespeare’s works is in this world what religion might be to ours. There are those who believe in Christopher Marlow, some who believe in Edward de Vere, and some who believe it’s someone completely unknown, or no one at all. These opinions and beliefs are trumpeted about with comical gravity, but it forces us to reflect as to whether the same can be said to the issue we trumpet about in our world.
But it is not to say that this other world has no religion. The most popular religion in that world is that of the Global Standard Deity, or GSD. In order to stem and quash religious conflicts, religion has been standardized (much like many other abstract concepts in our world like currency, time, etc.) just so that everyone would be more harmonious with each other. The idea of this is at once jarring yet comical.
I also very much enjoyed the quirky names of the characters in this book. The protagonist is named Thursday Next (rather fitting considering her father is part of the ChronoGuards, sort of security guards for time and who themselves can travel through time easily), one of her colleagues is named Paige Turner, her uncle is named Mycroft, her boss is named Victor Analogy, and her bigger boss is Braxton Hicks (like – the contractions?!), the unpleasant representative from an all-encompassing corporation is named Jack Schitt (LMFAO), and the villain of the book is named Acheron Hades (with a brother named Styx).
Before each chapter is a small excerpt seemingly from interviews, private journals, newspaper clippings, biographies and various other source material. I love reading this. Not only is it relevant information for the upcoming chapter, but it is usually written in a tongue-in-cheek style that gives an extra zest to the narratives.
Mycroft’s crazy inventions are yet another aspect of the world that oozes with creativity. In the limelight in this book are his Bookworms, genetically-modified worms that read books and spew out various information about it. The part where they start farting apostrophes and unnecessary capitalization – such a genius moment in comedic writing.
All in all, this book is so much fun and I’m in love with the world that Fforde has created (this is a rare thing for me). I will definitely be continuing the series when I’m able to get my hands on the second book in the library. I’m so glad that I discovered it by accident.