Sadly, I have been Disappointed.
I was an early fan of Fforde – I adored The Eyre Affair and the next two, to the point where I actually went to an event to hear Fforde speak, which is not usually my thing. I’ve read the rest of the Thursday books and continued to enjoy them, and his other stuff too. So I was excited when I heard there was a new Thursday book.
It did not live up to my expectations. And the main reason is that it felt gimmicky. Which is a ridiculous thing to say because the Thursday books are nothing BUT gimmicks, yet here… it just didn’t work. Maybe there were too many, maybe I was hoping for more substance, maybe I haven’t read enough of the books Fforde was riffing off. I read it all the way to the end, because I did want to know how it was going to be resolved, but… I read it in 24 hours because it was a very easy read, not because I was utterly enthralled.
There were bits I enjoyed. This novel actually has a very clever gimmick at its core which allows for all sorts of interesting discussion: the book is not centred on Thursday Next at all. It is centred on the written Thursday Next – that is, the character playing her in BookWorld, the one who is acting for all of those readers who encounter Thursday in the first five books. Head hurt yet? Clever though, yes? So there’s a whole heap of discussion and some angst about how Thursday ought to be played, and – most humorously and self-referentially – discussion about the fact that the Thursday books are basically unread at this time in the (fictional) world, which itself has all sorts of consequences.
One of the gimmicks that I enjoyed at first but then wore thin was the discussion of BookWorld, where the vast majority of the novel takes place. I like this idea a lot, and there are some interesting insights into genre politics and so on. But it was never quite clear whether Fforde was trying to be subversive, in his discussion of genre and who was dealing well and who <i>should</i> be doing well and which genre had influence on each other etc etc, or… whether he was making observations and assumptions. Because he did both. Which got confusing, since – um, was that bit subversive, or do you actually mean that potentially insulting thing you just said about that genre? Which added a layer of annoyance I could have done without.
Look, if you haven’t read a Thursday book, don’t start here. DO read The Eyre Affair, because it is wonderful, even if – like me – you have read no Dickens. If you are a long-time Thursday fan, I can’t see me talking you out of reading this one. But… borrow it from a library, or buy it second hand.