Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Audible
Rating: WARTY!

This audio novel was very ably narrated by Susan Duerden.

I've already reviewed Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey and One of Our Thursdays is Missing, both of which I found hilarious.

Unfortunately, this novel fell far short of those two; after I'd listened to the first disk I was not impressed at all. By the end of the first disk in One of Our Thursdays is Missing I was already searching the car for my ass, which I'd laughed off. I couldn't find it, so I had to laugh that off, too. Did I make a big mistake in starting the Thursday next series not at the beginning? Is disappointment and regret going to haunt me over this? Only Time Will Tell, and the next edition of that magazine isn't due for a while....

Disk 2 was better, but it still wasn't funny; it reads (listens?) just like a regular thriller. I can now understand why people who read the series from the start suddenly took a dislike to One of Our Thursdays is Missing, because it was really quite a departure from the format of this, the first novel in the series. I think If I'd started this series where it ought to be started, with this volume, I might not have even ventured far enough to read that latter novel, having seen what the earlier ones were like, so I'm glad I read that one out of order! By the time I reached disk 6 (60% in, in ebook terms, around page 210 in real book terms) I was really beginning to tire of this. Yes, it had some lol moments, but in general it was a bit tedious, with nothing very funny happening in general, and nothing really engrossing going on at all. Thursday Next is merely going through the motions, and it was neither a thriller nor a mystery at that point.

In this novel, Thursday (the real world Thursday, that is) is up against Acheron Hades, an arch villain who seems to be able to change his physical appearance at will and at whim, and who is evidently immune to bullets - unlike Thursday who ends up in hospital, shot twice by Hades. Her life was saved by a copy of Jane Eyre which was in her "breast pocket" and which stopped the bullet. This is particularly meaningful to Thursday, because she recalls, as a child, visiting the British Library where the original handwritten copy of Jane Eyre resides, and she ends up in the novel briefly. It was her very presence which caused Rochester's horse to shy when he first meets Eyre! It's also an important point because later, Thursday ventures into Eyre (which in her world does not end like it does in ours) and changes things around a bit so it has the familiar ending. It was that which was championed in the blurb and it was for that reason that I wanted to read it. Unfortunately, the blurb once again lied! More anon.

After Thursday leaves hospital, having recovered somewhat from her, er, shooting pains, two bizarre incidents occur. In the first, she sees her older self in a car, and that other self warns her that Hades is still alive (contrary to police reports that he died in a car accident) and that she should take a job in Swindon, even though it's something of a demotion for her. She resolves to take this advice. She also learns that a man helped save her life after she was shot, and she has reason to believe that this man was Rochester from Eyre. No, not from Eire, from Eyre.... So yes, not at all funny, but really interesting!

As I continued to listen in on Next's adventures, I did grow very fond of Susan Duerden's reading, but even that endearing and warming voice wasn't enough to keep my interest in this novel. While there were some very good bits, those were few and far between, and that far between was filled with tedious run-of-the-mill story-telling which seemed to be going nowhere, and which held no interest for me. As I mentioned, I was looking for the trip to Eyre (not Eire! I've already been to Eire), which refused to turn up!

The most LoL moment, I have to say, was on page 82 where Thursday is accosted at Swindon airport(!) by two students who are handing out anti-Crimea war propaganda. Thursday speaks first:

"I'm not here with the colonel. It was a coincidence."
"I don't believe in coincidences"
"Neither do I. That's a coincidence, isn't it?"

But you have to hear it from Duerden, I think, to really feel it in your funny bone like I did! Contrastingly, there is some really bad writing cropping up, such as, in the chapter header quotation for chapter 20. I routinely skip those things in novels having no interest whatsoever in chapter header quotations, but Duerden reads them, so I was forced to listen. In the real book, Fforde writes, "There are a superabundance of these in the English language." and this is what Duerden read, and I have to say that it's a shameful display of poor grammar from a professional writer.

So as I mentioned, at about 60% in I was tiring of it, and at 70% in, with no hint of Next's supposed visit to Eyre precipitating any time soon, I called it. The novel quite simply was not good enough for me to continue to wait for something to which I'd been looking forward since chapter one, and which the book blurb had quite puffed-up into a major part of the novel. It evidently was not. Would it happen in the next paragraph, or would it not come until the last chapter? The suspense was boring the pants off me (not a good thing to happen whilst driving, let me tell you.... I just lost interest in waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I'd understood that Next would go into Eyre and hilarity would ensue. It hasn't. Not by that point, and I was tired of sitting around wasting my time until it did. Life's too short to waste on un-engaging novels when there are so many out there (in my to-read list at right) begging to be enjoyed!

Like I said, I loved the first two Fforde novels I read, but this one just wasn't in the same league as the others. I plan on reading one more in this series - the next one in line - but this one is a WARTY!

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