The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books may be somewhat formulaic and repetitive, but they’ve never been boring…until now. After the enjoyable reinvention of the series in the previous book, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, The Woman Who Died a Lot feels very much like same old, with the loosely chaotic plot structure which started out endearing just becoming genuinely annoying.
Continuing the pattern of alternating between ‘BookWorld’ set stories and Swindon set stories, we’re back with the regular, non-fictional Thursday in Swindon. Still recovering from her assassination attempt from the previous book, Thursday is a shadow of her former self. Goliath are still active though, and continuing their attempts to build Thursday simulacra and, eventually, take over the world. Meanwhile, the Almighty has announced his plans to smite Swindon, with the only potential saviour being Thursday’s genius teenage daughter Tuesday and her attempts to build an ‘anti-smite’ shield.
In typical Fforde fashion, The Woman Who Dies a Lot has a lot of different plot strands being juggled at once, but unlike his earlier books he’s dropping the balls a lot, or maybe I’m just sick of juggling. This metaphor is getting a little strained. Easily my favourite storyline was the resolution of the Aornis/Jenny mindworm stuff from First Among Sequels, which is refreshingly emotional and intense, but very much to the detriment of everything else, which was business as usual. It’s still funny, but it’s more chuckles that guffaws. Fforde does feel rather on auto-pilot by this point and I felt that he’s taken a slight step backwards from One of Our Thursday’s is Missing.
One of the things I actually really liked about this book was the focus on Thursday’s family. Landen is a sardonic rock to Thursday, with the almost-Chronoguard general Friday taking after his mother. The unfathomable genius Tuesday is my favourite, particularly her attempts to still act like a normal teenager. Although the Next family has featured in every book, this is the first where they feel properly at the centre, which was nice.
Overall, The Woman Who Died a Lot is pretty comfortably my least favourite Thursday Next book. I’m honestly not sure if this is because it’s gotten worse, or if I’m suffering a sort of Fforde fatigue. That said, the still unreleased next book Dark Reading Matter sounds quite promising, so I’m still going to be sticking with Thursday for the time being.