When I finished Jane Eyre a few years (well, five) back, someone told me that I needed to read The Eyre Affair. Granted, it took me a while, but I did finally get around to it.
I can safely say I’m torn about this novel. On the one hand, it was weirdly brilliant: it’s an alternative world, where in 1985 there’s time travel and interesting inventions; where planes aren’t used for commercial travel, and there’s a questionably moral corporation — Goliath — basically running England, and where the ending to Jane Eyre is that she goes off with her cousin to India.
In this world, there are people called Litera Techs, SpecOps-27, who deal with crimes on literature. It’s a pretty mundane job, for the most part, especially for Crimean War veteran (the Russians and the English have been fighting this war for more than a century) Thursday Next. Then evil mastermind Archeron Hades steals the manuscript for Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit and all hell breaks loose, and it’s up to Thursday to set it right.
The other really brilliant thing in this book was the names: from Archeron (and his brother Styx) Hades, to Thursday’s partners Victor Analogy and Bowden Cable and her ex-boyfriend Landon Parke-Lane (not to mention the Goliath head honcho Jack Schitt. Yes, that is exactly how you say it.), they are all brilliant. No, I didn’t get all the British references, but I got enough to find it amusing.
But, in the end, that’s all the book had: a great premise and some funny literary allusions. It took much too long in setup, getting around to the point of the novel; why was it called the Eyre Affair, when it was such a small part of the whole novel? I enjoyed the Shakespeare debates, but felt they didn’t really serve much purpose in the overall arc of the story. In fact, I could say that for a lot of the novel: it took too much time building the world, which was only sometimes fascinating, and then it took too much time wrapping up (and setting up the next one) in the end. It was just … too long.
So, cut 150 or so pages and perhaps it’d be a really great novel.
Rated: High for language: nine f-bombs, plus assorted other milder language, including one character’s name.