Ok, the Books I've Been Dying To Read streak continues, and this one's been on my list for a while, because guys, someone kidnaps Jane Eyre. JANE EYRE! My favorite literary heroine, and eventual wife to the number one on my list of Men Whom I Love Who Are Not In Fact Real! This is a big deal. And yes, Jane isn't swiped from Bronte's pages until well into the last third of the book, and yes, that whole business is tidied up rather quickly, and yes, I would have liked the intrepid Thursday Next to have spent more time wandering around Thornfield, so that I could pretend that I was wandering around Thornfield (I'd start a fire in your bed any time you like, Mr Rochester, hee hee...oops). But even though more time was spent poking around Martin Chuzzlewitz, which I haven't read, than around the Rochester residence, it was pretty awesome. JANE EYRE WAS STOLEN!
So the basic premise is that Thursday Next, Special Operative (who's name drove me crazy, because it's all detective-y work, right? So they're always referring to each other by their last names, and with commas and periods being what they are, I'd always think they were ending a sentence and beginning a new one with the word 'Next,' like 'Naive, Next, very naive' which I kept reading as 'Naive. Next, very naive' which you will all agree makes no sense) lives in a sort of alternate universe where literature is taken very seriously indeed, and where, for reasons left unexplained, time is all willy-nilly-fluid.
The time bit isn't actually germane to the plot (nor is the ham-handed, completely unnecessary Sub-Plot of Luuuuuuuve between Thursday and old flame Landen), but the literature bit, where original manuscripts are kept under imperial guard, is actually pretty rad. Because Thursday's uncle invents this Prose Portal where you can travel into books, and if someone - like the totally evil and unexplainedly powerful Acheron Hades - were to sneak into the original copy of Martin Chuzzlewitz and kill off one of the minor characters, that character'd be missing from all other copies of the book, and we'd all be doomed. Or something.
To be honest, the storytelling wasn't great and the jokes could be a little forced and the whole Thursday - Landen deal was completely unnecessary, but I'm going to let it slide. Fforde re-wrote the ending of Jane Eyre just so he could have the characters un-re-write it. That's ballsy.
If you are a total nerd and you love the idea that you could just pop into 'I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud' and do a little flirting with Mr Wordsworth, or that Mr Rochester might show up to wrap you in his dinner jacket after you've been shot, and if you love off-hand references to Carroll's Queen of Hearts or characters with names like Analogy and Tabularasa, then fire up your Prose Portals, friends, and dive in.