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Friday, May 2, 2008

Thursday Next

The Thursday Next series of novels by Jasper Fforde are delightfully comic adventures set in an alternative version of Swindon, UK in which the printed world reigns supreme and people are excited by productions of Richard III. Everyone reads and literature is the main source of entertainment and diversion. What most people don't know there is that literature in this universe has a very real life of its own, a life that must be protected, for if anything is changed in the inner book world, it changes in every book in the outer real world as well.

It is possible to enter, if you know how or have the inclination, this world inside the books, and our heroine, Thursday Next, turns out to have a talent for it. In the first book, The Eyre Affair, Thursday is a Special Operative in a literary crime detection unit trying to figure out who is kidnapping characters. She has to step into the book, literally, when Jane Eyre disappears from Jane Eyre. After she sorts out that mess and changes the ending of the novel to the one we now enjoy (when did that happen?), her problems seem to mount, as her husband is kidnapped and eradicated by the evil Goliath Corporation, who really runs things. It takes a couple of novels to get him back. She is occasionally helped by her time traveling absent father. Her baby has a gorilla for a babysitter, her beloved pet is a dodo, Hamlet is hiding out in her mother's house and there are mammoths in the garden. It's a strange, strange world, and only Thursday seems to be able to keep track of who is real and who is missing and what should be where, as she battles the Goliath Corporation for justice and fairness for her and her loved ones.

If you slept through American and British lit class, you might have a little trouble keeping up with the action of these books. For those whose classical education was a bit thin or it's been a few years and the memory of details are fuzzy, Fforde provides enough background information and makes the characters come so alive, that you might find yourself wanting to pick up an old classic and see what you missed or didn't quite get the first time. Aside from the literary references and all the characters from so many novels floating around in the plots, the world that Jasper Fforde has concocted is delightfully unlike any other I have found in literature. His stories are innovative and I never know in what direction he is going to take Thursday or where she will end up.

The novels have brought attention to Swindon, UK, which in time may even name some streets after characters from the books. The author and his fans have created their own universe where Thursday next is occasionally "spotted" at one party or another or walking down the streets of Swindon. He has a whimsical and extensive website I encourage you to explore by clicking on the title of this post. Here is a video in which the author talks about the world of Thursday Next.

The Thursday Next books in order of publication:

The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten

First Among Sequels, the next Thursday Next novel
came out in July 2008.

It's on my shelf. I'm looking forward to reading it!

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