A couple of weeks ago I found myself having to stay overnight in Swindon, where in a conversation it was suggested to me that Jasper Fforde had put Swindon on the literary map. So knowing that Gemma was a keen Fforde fan, The Eyre Affair duly arrived in the post from Solihull. Certainly I whizzed through the novel in hardly any time at all, but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It is one of the silliest novels I’ve read in a long time, but also one of the most inventive. A number of years ago I read a coupleof Terry Pratchett novels and whilst I could fully appreciate their attraction (I take my hat off to him in his ability to keep a lot of teenage boys reading and I also remember seeing him at a conference give a very articulate and robust defence of the sci-fi/fantasy genre), I didn’t find them as funny as everyone else seemed to. I found the humour a bit derivative and schoolboy-ish and, although I didn’t hate the books, I didn’t feel inspired to keep reading his novels.
In a number of ways Fforde reminded me of Pratchett, especially in respect of his ‘fantasy world’, but also in respect of the ‘sub-Pythonesque’ humour. But Fforde also locks into the genre of the crime novel, which appeals to me far more than the fantasy genre of Pratchett. Furthermore, Fforde is writing for the book fan – his reference points are the great works of English literature and Fforde knows his stuff extermely well and, as a reader, I found myself playing spot the reference. What really carried the book for me, though, was the sheer joy and energy of the writing. Fforde is clearly someone who writes because it’s what he enjoys doing and whilst he is not always the most stylish of writers, his enthusiasm shines through and rubs of on the reader. At least it did with me.
So, I enjoyed this book and will read some more in the series. I doubt if I’ll become a diehard Fforde fan, but I can happily spend some more easy-reading time in his company and will enjoy the novels for what they are.