I love books, characters from books, and words in general. I adore ridiculous things, especially if those things happen to be British. I also love ridiculous, intelligent, witty, weird authors; Jasper Fforde fits the bill.
I first heard of Fforde while in an undergrad Book Studies class. A classmate (who is now also a librarian, strangely enough) recommended The Eyre Affair to me, and I was instantly hooked. Fforde’s style is irreverent, fun, and full of smarts.
His main series of books is about a parallel universe in which the Crimean War is still happening, you can own a pet dodo, and a huge company called Goliath runs England. Oh, and you can jump in and out of books and change their plots. The Eyre Affair is about Thursday Next, a literary detective, and how she saves the classic book, Jane Eyre. Fforde is great because he uses a lot of wordplay (like in Thursday’s name), and because he manages to create this weird, complicated universe that seems totally real.
Thursday is romantically entangled with Landen Parke-Laine, a famous novelist and Crimean War veteran. Their love story spans all of the books, and in Lost in a Good Book, they lose each other because Thursday winds up in our universe (where one cannot go into books or own a dodo named Pickwick). I adore books about/involving parallel universes because I sort of wish they existed. (Maybe they do.)
In another one of the books, The Well of Lost Plots, Thursday dives into BookWorld. That’s right: BookWorld. Every character ever created lives there, and has to pop out whenever someone’s reading their story. There are lots of literary references and snarky one-liners that only avid readers will pick up on; it sort of feels like you’re in a secret club. These books call out to book-lovers everywhere and demand to be read. (Sometimes literally. The characters are occasionally aware that you are reading their story. It’s creepily amazing.)
Thursday is in five books so far: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, and Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. There’s a sixth book, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, that is coming out in January 2011.
Fforde has also written a few books in his “Nursery Crimes” series. The first one is called The Big Over Easy, and it’s about Jack Spratt, detective, and his attempts to solve Humpty-Dumpty’s murder. If you read nursery rhymes as a child, you will be familiar with many or most of the characters; that’s part of the wonderful charm of Fforde’s writing. You know the characters already, or at least you think you do.
The second book in the “Nursery Crimes” series is called The Fourth Bear. It’s a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, of course. Goldie goes missing, and lots of PDRs (Persons of Dubious Reality) are suspects. There’s going to be a third book in the series, called The Last Great Tortoise Race, coming out sometime in 2012.
Fforde has also started a new series called “Shades of Grey.” The first book in the series is The Road to High Saffron. This series is going to be about British society in the future where all social relationships are governed by the ability to see color. I haven’t read this one yet (it just came out in December), but since it’s coming from Jasper Fforde, I can almost guarantee that it’s awesome.
If you love words, you’re a librarian, and/or you can’t get enough British fiction, these books should fit nicely into your world.