The Eyre Affair


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.


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3 responses to “The Eyre Affair

  1. Dear Mike,
    I hope you don’t mind this unrelated comment, but I want to draw your attention to a survey I am currently running on book blogging and would be delighted if you’d participate. The idea is to lead to a better understanding of the book blogging world and to promote dialogue between publishers and bloggers. I’ll be writing an article on the results. The survey is open until 19/4 and can be found as the top post on my blog at the moment. Many thanks in advance if you decide to participate. I have had 13 responses so far and the answers are proving to be very interesting.

    • profmike

      Would love to respond to the survey. Only problem is that I’m going on holiday tomorrow and won’t be back until 18th. Will try and respondon 19th or before, if I can get internet access!

  2. Hi Mike,

    I know exactly what you mean about Jasper. Extreme invention at the same time as being rather pointless! He sometimes reminds me of a literary version of 10cc, if I can go that far back. I also know what you mean about Python and Pratchett, who irritates me immensely, btw.

    I met Jasper in a conference I organised in campus, back in 2008. He’s a very engaging and funny guy. And the one thing that struck me from the talk he gave was his idea of an author/reader contract. Hang on, I’m under-selling him there. He spoke very eloquently about the imaginative contribution the reader makes in creating the fictional world Jasper builds, and how his writing recognises and is based on that contribution. Another form of the same argument was in Jasper’s description of the ‘real’ fictional world within his fiction, if you get my drift. Our real world, he suggests, is infinite in its wonderful and mind-boggling variety and detail. The ‘real’ fictional world within his fiction is sparse and incomplete, and only made to come alive by the reader’s imaginative contribution.

    Having said all that, maybe its just stating the obvious. Bit I liked it anyhow!

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