"Begin at the beginning. Proceed straight to the end, and then stop." Louis Carroll
"Life is just one damned thing after another." Elbert Hubbard
In “The Eyre Affair” our heroine, Miss Thursday Next flirted with Dickens and then plunged straight into “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, much to the chagrin of those who liked the book the way it was. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in the sequel she should enter the works and worlds of Lewis Carroll, in which she encounters Snarks and Jabberwockies, The Bellman and the Cheshire Cat. All lovers of Victorian literature come to Alice in the end. That is in the very nature of things.
However, Jasper Fforde does not stop there, but also charges through literature from “Great Expectations” to “The Trial”, and that, I feel, is one of the problems with this book.
In “Lost in a Good Book”, Miss, now Mrs, Thursday Next is recovering from her adventures with “Jane Eyre” and the subsequent celebrity stardom which this has thrust upon her when things start to go wrong. To begin with, she learns that the world will end in a week, and the evil minions of Goliath Corporation TM have erased her poor husband's very existence. Added to this are rampaging garden ravishing mammoths, Entropy distorting assassination attempts, Acheron Hades return from the dead, Performance related pay, and one very pissed off Neanderthal train driver with a gun made of soap. All in all you have a book which is very full of events.
However, personally I found “Lost in a Good Book” to be a little lacking in the central plot department. Unlike the earlier book, Fforde has so shrouded his protagonists in mystery that for ninety percent of the novel Thursday seems to be simply blundering from "one damned thing" to another. There's never any progress made and it's never even revealed exactly who or what Thursday is battling against. If this built up suspense, then fine, but failing this, and I feel this does fail here, a good evil villain like dear old Acheron could have worked wonders for this novel.
The problem is compounded because Thursday's triumphs are built up to seem important, only to be dispatched very simply - usually in a single scene - and then dropped with scarcely a mention later. Nothing really connects to anything else, and there is no sense of achievement or progress. Worse of all, the one problem which really catches the reader's emotions and interest is the one which Fforde chooses to leave unresolved at the end of this book.
In all, this book felt like the second in a series, which it is. There's plenty of action, lots of imagination, and Fforde's usual breakneck pace. This is a good book, don't get me wrong, I just reckon it could have been better. It feels like it might have been written in rather a hurry. I'm hoping for better in the sequel.
Is it worth reading? Yes, definitely. As well, I checked out some other reviews of this novel and I seem to be the only reviewer with any negative feelings about it. Most reviewers agree that we are witnessing the birth of the big Next Cult, which, based on the series to date may well be true. Hang onto your toast, folks!
Oh, and did I mention that the book is funny? I laughed out loud when I finally found out what Mr Schitt-Hawse's first name is. Watch out for this!
"I liked this," you say. "What else is there that I can read?"
I'd certainly hope you've read the first book in the series, "The Eyre Affair" reviewed last month. I'm sure you'd also like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Lookinglass”. For humor and adventure, the books of Terry Pratchett and Harry Harrison are duly plugged.
"Is there anything like this in Wyvern's Library?"
You should check out the work of Shawn Patrick Reed who is doing that writerly thing of writing himself into his own stories. Also if you like boojums, then Adz's story The Squonk contains references to Genesis and Lewis Carroll.
Do you know anyone writing stuff like this on Wyverns? Email me.
Rating: 4 Faeries
Author: Jasper Fforde