A lively, pun-packed sequel to the Welsh novelist’s debut, The Eyre Affair (2002). Here, his lissome literary detective once again prowls the mean streets and elusive texts of classic English literature.
We’re back in Fforde’s Alternate Wales, 1985, when previously endangered species (e.g., dodos, woolly mammoths) thrive, the vast and sinister Goliath Corporation fulfills every imaginable need, and literature has replaced pop culture as the people’s chosen opiate. As “Baconians” wreak havoc defending their favorite’s authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and Richard III draws Rocky Horror Picture Show–like participatory audiences, Thursday, a veteran of the never-ending Crimean War, finds herself enmeshed in numerous baffling intrigues. Her new husband, writer Landen Parke-Laine, has been “deleted” (perhaps by Goliath bigwigs revenging themselves on Thursday for imprisoning their op Jack Schitt in the text of Poe’s “The Raven”). And Thursday, aware that “without entry to books I would never see Landen again,” goes bravely off into bookdom—abetted and hindered here and there by her hardboiled partner Bowden Cable, her time-traveling dad, and post-centenarian “Gran” (condemned to live until she has read “the ten most boring classics”). Denied access to the normal means of entry to literary works (the Prose Portal), Thursday finagles her way inside such texts as Kafka’s The Trial and Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, enduring meaningful encounters with such worthies as a bookwormy Cheshire Cat and an unusually extroverted Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations, of course). And, oh yes, Thursday must also deal with a newly discovered Shakespeare play (Cardenio) and a mammoth stampede. Just as she did in Eyre, Thursday preserves the integrity of embattled masterpieces, ending up gracefully poised for the next forthcoming sequel (announced in an endnote), The Well of Lost Plots.
Fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels should check out Fforde’s engagingly skewed comic utopia. As one of his characters predicts: the likely result will be “paroxysms of litjoy.”