Published: by New English Library Limited in July 2001
There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where the Crimean war still rages, dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is deeply disappointed by the ending of 'Jane Eyre'. In this world there are no jet-liners or computers, but there are policemen who can travel across time, a Welsh republic, a great interest in all things literary - and a woman called Thursday Next.
This is a book lovers' book, if ever there was one, and one that is held dear my too many bloggers to count. Having read it, I can see why!
Thursday Next is a member of the Special Operations Network (or 'SpecOps', if you will); more specifically, she's a LiteraTec. One of a team charged with stopping the preservation of the written word and all-round maintenance of literary harmony. Who doesn't love a world where literature is a pillar of society and where there are societies where you can change your name to match your favourite poet and walk around dressed like them...yeh, ok, so perhaps that's a step too far but you see what I'm saying...
The main story is about Thursday's pursuit of the demonic (and aptly named) Hades as he rampages through the nation's favourite books, kills wantonly and generally reaks a bit of havoc. Everything is perfectly paced and there was a brilliant balance between the plot and the incidentals that make Thursday's world so fantastic: England and Wales are separated by stringent border controls; England and Russia are embroiled in a bitter, century-old war; dodos are pets and Jane Eyre finishes with Jane leaving Mr Rochester behind for the joys of India, much to the dissatisfaction of many.
The alternative England created by Fforde is one I will happily revel in for many books to come (Lost in a Good Book is already lingering on my bedside table...). Thursday's the kind of girl I will enjoy seeing more of too - her tone as narrator is wry and witty in a self-deprecating, very British way! Not, of course, that we run around the countryside debating whether or not Shakespeare wrote King Lear and jumping through time (If only!) but Fforde uses the kind of humour that compliments the eccentric characters perfectly.
This is, without a doubt, worth reading! Can't really say any more than that! Thank you to all of you lovely bloggers who reviewed this or generally discussed it's wonderfulness - you were right, it's ace!
Overall: I would recommend this to anyone who loves Jane Eyre, anyone who loves Terry Pratchett, anyone who loves books that just don't go where you think they will and...well, anyone who loves books and ever wanted to live in a world where they were revered enough to warrant their own police force!