Lost in a Good Book
London, Hodder and Stoughton, 2002, 372p
What an appropriate title. I felt the need for something really literary and clever, and found just the thing in Jasper Fforde's novel, the second of the Thursday Next series.
Following on from The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next finds herself having to deal with being a celebrity, trying to represent the truth of what happened inside Jane Eyre, whilst being censored by Goliath Industries, SpecOps and the Bronte Society. Things go from bad to worse when Goliath eradicate her husband, handsome war hero Landen Parke-Laine. In Lost in a Good Book, Next must quickly learn how to jump in and out of books, in the hope of rescuing her lovely man.
I love the way Fforde writes. He is clever and well-read, with literary references seeping through every page. For instance, Miss Havisham features significantly in this novel, as Next's guide in jumping through books. This world has created is a strange sideways version of our world - where the Crimea war is only coming to an end in 1985, where mammoths migrate across England annually, and where fiction is the most popular form of culture. It is a dream.
Fforde plays with the idea that a good book can be an escape from the everyday - but, for his lucky characters, the escape is literal, as they drop right into the world they are reading about. In his world, novels are policed by Jurisfiction Agents, who stop deviant plot changers and rebellious characters.
Characters can also play with coincidences, as Thursday discovers. Strange things keep happening to her, leading her into near-death situations. She is lucky to have a time-travelling father watching over her, always stepping in at the last possible moment.
I'm a bit in love with Jasper Fforde; but mostly I am in love with his romantic lead, Landen Park-Laine, who is unfortunately absent from most of this novel. Thursday Next is a brilliant hero - clever, quick witted and brave, and as she becomes increasingly smitten with Landen, so do I.
As it's International Women's Day, I'd like to add Thursday Next to the list of fictional women I admire and wish were real.