The Eyre Affair is the first in the Thursday Next series, set in an alternate reality where book characters can travel to the real world and people from the real world can travel into books. As a book-lover, this sounded right up my alley.
I found the writing less than perfect. I can see skill in there somewhere, but while some parts show potential, most of it’s just silly. Maybe that was the idea, but it didn’t work for me. I’m not really into humorous books anyway, but with this, I felt like the author was standing in front of me the whole time, shaking my shoulders and yelling, “Laugh, god damn you, laugh!”
If you choose to write in the first person, stick to it. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate when books skip back and forth between different ‘I’ narratives (hello, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven). But we are supposed to be in the detective’s head all the time, and yet some omniscient narrator is telling us things that Thursday (the detective) cannot possibly know:
Victor looked at me strangely. He hadn’t dared tell anyone about his theories for fear of being ostracised, but here was a respected London LiteraTec nearly half his age going farther than he imagined. A thought crossed his mind.
If Thursday is the ‘me’ in the above paragraph, who is revealing Victor’s thoughts? How can Thursday know his inner monologue?
My main issue with this book was the characterisation:
‘Silence! I think it is fair to say that I am the most debased individual on this planet and quite the most brilliant criminal mind this century. The plan that we embark upon now is easily the most diabolical ever devised by man, and will not only take you to the top of everyone’s Most-Wanted list but will also make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams of avarice.’ He clapped his hands together. ‘So let the adventure begin, and here’s to the success of our finest criminal endeavour!’
Acheron Hades is one of the worst villains I’ve ever come across in literature. Children’s cartoons boast better villains than this. He was entirely unsophisticated, and was such a cliche that I actually groaned several times. I mean, the speech above is just laughable. This is not a scary guy.
There were also far too many characters and I couldn’t remember who most of them were because their personalities were all identical. Even Thursday is bland and boring. I did enjoy reading about Mycroft and Polly – but again, Polly is essentially a carbon copy of Thursday’s mother, so was there really any need to have both characters in the book? I think Thursday should have been raised by her aunt and uncle, and there was no need for the random appearance from a previously unmentioned brother, either.
Another thing that annoyed me was this: the book’s summary tells us that Jane Eyre has been plucked from the pages of her own novel and that it’s up to Thursday to send her back. But get this: Jane doesn’t even get kidnapped until page 296, which is about two-thirds of the way through the story! Half the novel is engrossed with the earlier crime of the stolen Dickens manuscript. The book should have been called The Chuzzlewit Affair.
At one point we skipped genres: vampires apparently exist in this world, but I’m not sure why. It’s very rare for characters to come out of the pages of books, so I don’t think it would be due to a surge in paranormal romance for teens. It’s just never explained. And, again, they’re laughable villains, not frightening ones:
‘Time for dinner, Miss Next. I won’t trouble you with the menu because… well, you’re it!‘
One thing I did like a lot was the scene when Thursday went to see a production of Richard III which involved lots of audience participation. I really like the idea of a Shakespeare play being put on this way. It reminded me of The Rocky Horror Show, where the audience have their own lines to say. However, I did NOT like the man she went to see the show with and I found the romance pointless.
Finally, I absolutely HATED the two pages that were full of misplaced apostrophes. These are due to the unusual invention of ‘bookworms’ which eat prepositions and their waste product contains apostrophes and ampersands. It’s an amusing idea, but the extra punctuation did NOT need to go into the dialogue. It was so, so distracting and not at all funny.
The one thing I got out of reading this book was a desire – no, a need – to get a pet dodo.
I’m really disappointed as it sounded like such a unique, fun read but the ability just wasn’t there. The story was too madcap with insufficient world-building – it didn’t really explain what sort of world they were living in, you just had to work it out for yourself.
If you like comic writing, maybe this will be more up your street, but it’s just not for me.
My Rating: 2/5.