Listen to book recommendations from trusted friends.
I don't know why it took me so long to listen to Amy--in fact, she had to practically hit me over the head with this recommendation (ie, bring the entire set over to my house and shove the books into my hands), but as soon as I finished the other book I was reading, I dove in--bypassing a few others I'd planned to read to honor this (rather) pressing push toward Jasper Fforde's novels.
And, I was going to write a review for you after I read the first one, as shown above, but then my motivation deserted me and I dove right into its sequel, Lost in a Good Book, which I WAS (lost in) most assuredly. However, I have now finished that one as well, and so I'll review them both for your convenience, trying not to give too much away in the likely event that you'll nip out to your nearest book seller and purchase the whole lot.
First off, please do not read any books by this author if a) you do not enjoy chuckling, b) you have no knowledge whatsoever of classic literature and c) you can't appreciate occasional silliness. If two or more of the above qualifications have left you jumping up and down with your hand in the air, come back to my blog on another day and skip this post entirely. If, however, the only qualification on the above list that causes you some doubt is b), have no fear. You can still appreciate Fforde's books without a thorough understanding of literature and British history. It would help, but we can't all be Anglophiles, now can we? Plus, there's always wikipedia.
So now, here are some things you should know:
1) this series is set in Britain in 1985, but it is not our 1985. Without mentioning all the details, I will simply say that genetic science should be thanked for bringing back mammoths and dodo birds (and other creatures), that Neanderthals do not use the first person singular pronoun, that the ChronoGuard regulates time travel, that the GraviTube allows travel between Sydney and London to take only 40 minutes, and that of the 28 levels of Special Operations, only those over 20 are commonly known. Most of the rest are cloaked in classified secrecy.
2) Thursday Next, the heroine of this series, works for SpecOps-27, which makes her a LiteraTech. She and her office are responsible for authenticating newly discovered works of literature, for answering literary questions, and for announcing fraudulent copies of sequels and unauthorized editions of famous works. (Why can't I work there???)
3) Sometimes characters from fiction pop in and out of the novel.
4) Dodos like marshmallows very much.
With those important facts in mind, here are the synopses:
In The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next is on the trail of Acheron Hades, the third most evil man currently in existence. He is purely diabolical, possibly bulletproof, and cannot be photographed. While Thursday is in hot pursuit of Hades, she meets Jack Schitt, who works for the Goliath Corporation and offers to help her find the criminal. The Goliath Corporation pretty much runs Britain behind the scenes, and was instrumental in bringing about the end of the German occupation at the end of WW2. German occupation of Britain? you may ask. Good job with your critical reading skills, reader.
Anyway, Jack Schitt is a little pushy, and Thursday isn't sure she likes him. (You know what she thinks he's worth.) But he's kinda controlling her boss, so she has to follow along. Anyway, an original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit (by Dickens) (it's okay--I'd never heard of it either--and I'm an English teacher!) has been stolen, and Thursday quickly connects the dots between the manuscript and Hades--especially when her office receives a frantic call from a Chuzzlewit fan that one of the characters in the manuscript has disappeared! Hades has found a way to go into the novel and take whomever he wants. How diabolical.
Well, I don't want to reveal much more, but Hades steals a couple more things and people, does a lot of maniacal cackling, and inadvertently does something very literary.
And Thursday gets married.
In Lost in a Good Book, Thursday's husband is eradicated. Now, to you or me, eradicated might mean killed. But in the world of this book, eradicated means one of the ChronoGuard has gone into that person's past and changed it so that he (Thursday's husband, for this example) actually died in that auto accident when he was two. So, poor Thursday is the only one with any memory of her husband--as an adult, that is--and she quickly learns that if she wants her husband uneradicated, she may need to help some nefarious people do some wicked things.
Luckily for Thursday, though, the voices she has begun hearing in her head are not a sign of insanity. Oh no: they're people calling her on the footnoterphone, sent from the Jurisfiction offices, of course, which are located in the drawing room at Norland Park (which is in Sense and Sensibility, of course) (Mrs. John Dashwood offered the room, for she would like it known that she is not so callous as many people believe her to be--even though she did convince her husband to kick his half-sisters out with scarcely two shillings to rub together after their dying father asked him to care for them).
Thursday has been recruited as an agent for Jurisfiction because of her ability to jump into and out of stories. And she does quite a bit of jumping in 399 pages.
I feel that I'm not doing these novels justice. They are witty and clever, and devilishly fun to read. The truth is, I promised myself that I wouldn't start the third one until I'd written this post, so...uh...I'm basically diddling my way through it so I can jump into the next novel.
Just trust me, okay? And follow Resolution #265: take the book advice of a trusted friend. I have #1 and #2 finished, if you'd like to borrow them. Just remember where they came from and bring them back (in good condition) when you're done.