The Eyre Affair – Review Roundup

By Anne Perry

Posted on September 27, 2013 in Books with tags Review Project, The Eyre Affair

The Hodderscape Review Project’s inaugural title was The Eyre Affair. What did our reviewers think?

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Glen Mehn – “. . .an actual love letter from those who love language, literature, stories, and wordplay. Literary Detective Thursday Next teams up with her partner Bowden Cable (named for the cable used on bicycles) under the authority of boss Braxton Hicks (yes, the false contractions at the end of pregnancy). Their job is not to end the Crimean war, solve the mystery of Shakespeare’s authorship, or to apprehend supervillain Acheron Hades. Just to rescue Jane Eyre.”
Read the whole review here.

I Will Read Books – “Not sure how the best describe how wonderful and weird the book is. If you have read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams or The Laundry books by Charles Stross you might have an idea. Basically, anything could happen, and the least plausible outcome has the greatest chance of happening especially if it’s funny.”
Read the whole review here.

The Booksmugglers – “Controversy! Ana & Thea found themselves disagreeing about The Eyre Affair. Thea enjoyed ‘the wonderful, slippery world that Fforde has envisioned in this parallel universe, complete with time travel, all-powerful private corporations, and endless, secretive bureaucracy. I loved the kinda-sorta steampunk flavor to the technology, and the absurdity of certain elements (Thesaurus worms! Pet dodos! Babbage Charge Cards!).’ Ana, meanwhile, felt that The Eyre Affair ‘relies explicitly and heavily on the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief and to buy into the premise of the story – a decision needs to be made really early: to simply “go with the flow” or to question everything one reads. Although I started fully enthusiastic about the book, the more I read the less I was able to enjoy it.’”
Read the whole review here.

Ewa S-R – “It’s escapist, it’s gloriously silly, and, if you want something that doesn’t take a single aspect of itself seriously, it’s enormously satisfying. I first read it when I was in between GCSE and A-Level exams; it took the piss out of high literature in a witty, chaotic, genre-bending way which I’d never read before, and has been a huge influence on my reading and approach to the weirder aspects of genre since then.”
Read the whole review here.

Mieneke van der Salm – “Of course, it’s not just the LiteraTecs that are a great invention, it’s the entirety of Fforde’s alternate history Britain, where the Crimean War still rages and where Wales has revolted and separated itself from the kingdom. The setup of the Special Operations Network, with its different divisions and secretive nature is a delightful riff of MI-5, MI-6, James Bond and anything spy. The different departments get progressively wackier and the SpecOps credo “Below the eighth, above the law” rather says it all. While there is a lot of wackiness to the word-building, it’s all well thought-through and in the case of for example the time-travelling SO-12, there are perhaps some events that might go against all the accepted time travel rules, creating time travel paradoxes and other strange phenomena, but they are presented with such a big wink that they are clearly inserted deliberately, instead of accidentally.”
Read the whole review here.

Although Matt of Reader Dad wasn’t convinced, he did note that, ‘at its heart, this is Fforde’s love letter to literature. The message here is that these classic works of fiction are not the exclusive domain of a small group of intellectuals, but works written to be enjoyed by everyone.’

Stefan at Civilian Reader was concerned that he missed out on a lot of the book’s references, but he found he enjoyed the Eyre Affair more than he expected: ‘There is plenty on offer that is in a similar humorous vein as Terry Pratchett’s novels, so you won’t be adrift in a sea of allusion and references. The story is strong and stands on its own, I think.’

Max at One Chapter More commented on the novel’s ‘debutitis’ but notes that ‘this is Pratchett for Pynchon fans, with slightly less snark and bite at real-world issues, and slightly more snark and bite at the world of academia and middle-class pursuits.’

Jamie at Mithril Wisdom liked the book very much, but was particularly taken with main character Thursday Next: ‘She doesn’t necessarily fit into any typical archetype for a heroine, but rather feels like a naturally written and well balanced protagonist. I really liked her strength and her vulnerability in equal measure; she felt like a real person – a rare thing in fantasy.’

Robin of Quicksilver Reads had read The Eyre Affair when it first published, and loved it. His review gave him a chance to ask whether the novel has withstood the test of time, and he found that it has: ‘The central mystery is entertaining, the concept engaging and the setting fascinating, particularly if you are bibliophile like me. Thursday and her supporting cast have stood up well in the years since their creation, and the Eyre Affair remains one of the most innovative creations of modern speculative fiction.’

And, rounding out our roundup is Penny of Weir Tales, who took The Eyre Affair on holiday with her, and found it ‘a most entertaining and witty companion… Not flawless, but quite delightful in many respects. Comparisons with Douglas Adams are not misplaced; now there’s a compliment I don’t pay often.’

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