Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
I really enjoyed the madcap fun of The Eyre Affair, so I am pleased to report that Jasper Fforde’s sequel, continuing the adventures of literary detective Thursday Next, is even better. More epic, emotional and, most importantly, funny than the original, Lost in a Good Book is everything that The Eyre Affair was and more, dramatically enhancing the scope of the series and opening realms of pretty much limitless possibility for the future of the series.
Lost in a Good Book picks up a month after The Eyre Affair, with Thursday enjoying her marriage to the novelist Landen Parke-Laine. She is not so much enjoying the attention which her activities in Charlotte Bronte’s classic have attracted. Her trapping of the nasty Jack Schitt in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven has drawn the ire of the sinister Goliath Corporation, with corrupt elements within Spec Ops itself conspiring against her. It’s not long before Landen is ‘eradicated’; the timeline changed so that he had died at the age of two, and Goliath will only return him if Thursday rescues Schitt from The Raven. Thursday must learn to harness her innate power to enter literature to save her husband, halt on oncoming apocalypse and dodge the assassination attempts of someone trying to kill her with coincidences.
The alternate universe set up in The Eyre Affair is as interesting and amusing as ever, with a few more entertaining details added to flesh out this world. One element which particularly interests me is the cloning of the Neanderthals and the culture that they form. Where The Eyre Affair first introduced the idea of jumping into fiction, Lost in a Good Book runs with the idea and brings it to a logical conclusion. Great Expectations and Sense and Sensibility play key roles in this one, with the bizarre society formed within literature providing a lot of laughs, as well as a lot of intrigue. As with Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, one gets the feeling that Jasper Fforde is simply inserting every element which amuses him. This kind of ‘randomness’ usually backfires, but a few can pull it off masterfully; Jasper Fforde deserves to stand alongside Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett in this regard.
Fforde crams a lot of plot lines together this time, making this book not quite as tight as The Eyre Affair. A lot of plot lines are left hanging, which is fine by me as I plan on reading the whole series, but those who prefer their novels fairly self contained may be somewhat put off by Lost in a Good Book. By and large though, the myriad of plot lines Thursday is drawn into come together. As much as I enjoyed The Eyre Affair, the actual plot didn’t interest me nearly as much as the world in which it was set, and thankfully the plot is much more interesting in Lost in a Good Book.
Fforde is a great writer, and uses some literary gimmicks which manage to be fun rather than obnoxious as these things usually are. Throughout the story some characters talk to Thursday through footnotes, which she perceives as voices in her head. It’s this sort of silly, self aware postmodern madness which makes this series so fun; it’s about literature but also comfortably self aware of the fact that it is literature too.
Thursday remains an endearing and likeable narrator, with the first person narration working well. There’s a somewhat po-faced way that Fforde writes, as Thursday just adapts to the bizarre things around her, quickly coming to accept the crazy things that are happening, an element of the character which I loved. The supporting cast are amusing and vivid, with the standout stars being the fictional characters from other novels who make appearances, either extended or as cameos. Great Expectation’s Ms. Havisham is a clear highlight, but figures such as the Cheshire Cat also help to round out the story. Fforde is respectful to the original core of these characters, but also allows himself to put his own spin on them, creating characters which build upon those already established to create something new.
Lost in a Good Book is a more than worthy successor to The Eyre Affair, and one which sets up future novels very well. This isn’t the kind of novel which you can take too seriously; that’s not a criticism, I doubt Jasper Fforde wants us to take it too seriously. This is the sort of novel which you just enjoy, and I certainly did, devouring it as quickly as I did The Eyre Affair.