Have You Ever Heard of Winston Churchill?

The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

Well, apparently none of the characters in this book have, and it's set in England. Okay, it is an alternate history, and you can pretty much work that out as soon as you discover that the Crimean War is still being fought between England and Russia, and Wales is a Socialist Republic and not a part of England. Mind you, it isn't like many of the alternate histories you come across, like [book:Man in the High Castle], where the author suggests that history took a different direction at a certain point and the entire book is based upon that divergent. Instead Fford simply indicates that it is, but doesn't tell us where this history moved away from the history that we know.

 

Anyway, England is actually a really strange place (though some might argue that this is the case in our world as well). Where as in our would you have Jehovah Witnesses wandering around, knocking on doors, and trying to convince you that their path to salvation is the only true path, in Fford's world you have this group called the Baconians that go around trying to convince everybody that Francis Bacon actually penned the plays of William Shakespeare. Actually, literature is a very serious thing in this world, to the point that gang wars are fought over the debate as to who the true Shakespeare is (as well as the surrealists actually being such a violent sect that it has to be periodically banned).

 

 

Anyway the story is about a LiteraTec named Thursday Next. She used to be a soldier but bailed out and became a cop. Not a standard, pound the beat cop, but one of the SpecOps, a group of specialist detectives. However the LiteraTecs are right down the bottom at rank 27, and generally promotions are really hard to come by. The job of the LiteraTec is to deal with crimes of literature, such as busting open gangs that try to flog off manuscripts purportedly written by Shakespeare (or some other author). Anyway, one day she is seconded to SpecOp 5 as they are after this master criminal named Archeron Hades and she is the only one who knows what he looks like (since electronic devices can't record images of him, and nobody has ever bothered to draw a picture). When they manage to corner him the entire operation goes balls up and she finds herself on an enforced vacation. So she decides to take an assignment in her home town, which she hasn't visited in years.

 

 

As I said the world is really weird. Thursday's dad is a ChronoCop, a cop that enforces the time lines, however he's gone rogue so he is also a wanted criminal. However he will pop up every so often with random quotes such as 'how did the Duke of Wellington die?' and when he receives his answer he curses the French Revisionists, and then disappears. Despite his appearances being almost random, a couple of times they are essential to the plot, yet it never seems to come across as a Deux ex Machina.

 

You might be wondering about the title though. That is because the story is about how characters are going missing from various novels. In this world Jane Eyre is a very popular book, however the end is a little odd. In fact it was so odd that I had to double check the wikipedia entry to make sure that it ended the way I thought it had ended (Jane and Rochester get married as opposed to Jane running off to India with St John). Okay, people make side comments about the ending where she runs off to India as being a crappy ending that ruins a good book, but for all the Jane Eyre purists out there things are eventually set right.

 

Oh, we also find out who wrote Shakespeare – it's one of those weird time loops, but I will leave it at that.

 

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1442122143