If you are going to read the fantasy series by Jasper Fforde about Thursday Next then don’t start with First Among Sequels because this is the fifth volume and builds quite heavily on what has come before. If you start with The Eyre Affair then you will work your way into the author’s world and his way of writing – I promise you that the effort will not be wasted.
I adore this series which is based in an alternative Britain where books are very important, time travel is real and the Goliath Corporation are trying to take over the world. Thursday Next works for Special Operations in the first few books and has a number of work related challenges. She also has family issues including a father who is lost in time, an eccentric uncle and a husband who ceases to exist at one point. In addition to this Thursday can also travel inside books so the author shares a whole Bookworld with you and the really imaginative and involved way that it works.
By the time that we get to this book Thursday is allegedly retired from special operations and laying carpets for a living and bringing up her three children. In truth, the carpet business is a front for the continuation of her special operations work and she is still spending time in the Bookworld and is actively mentoring a clone of herself drawn from the novelisation of her life story.
All sorts of things happen in this book ; Thursday’s uncle returns as a ghost with something to tell her urgently, if only he could remember what it is; one of her carpet laying clients turns out to be a demon; she is trading cheese on the black market to prop up the failing business; people are determined to kidnap her dodo; her son is refusing to take the job opportunity which he needs to in order to save the world; and there is another clone of her who wants to kill her. And she doesn’t entirely trust the Goliath Corporation although they are currently being very nice to her.
The author handles all these plot lines, some very strange ideas and a multitude of puns with a deft hand and ties it all up excellently by the end. He also spends time and effort in making Thursday into a real character rather than just a joke. It is lovely to have a slightly older heroine who is in a happy marriage. It is interesting to see her deal with other versions of herself and admit how much really is her character. Her husband, Landon Park-Laine (say it out loud and think Monopoly) has a speech towards the end of the book in which he demonstrates his love for Thursday which is tender and rather beautiful. There is also a revelation about another character’s revenge which is desperately sad.
This is a book for those who love books. A bit of book knowledge helps to understand some of the puns and allusions and the better your knowledge the better the fun ! As a guide, you will enjoy this (and the author’s other books) if you have always wondered why Miss Havisham doesn’t drive a sports car, you truly grasp the evil of Mrs Danvers, you think it would be interesting to know what happens in the stately homes of English classics when the storyline moves elsewhere, you can see why Heathcliff might need an anger management course, you understand why the arrival of a piano in Emma upsets the plot, you know who Temperance Brennan is, and you have an abiding love for books and language.