the mind games of thursday next

There are books I casually read, and there are books I read and dwell on because they get inside my head — maybe because something in the book relates to my life at the moment, maybe because the characters are written so well I find myself almost forgetting they’re not really people I know, or maybe because a plot is simply so gripping that it’s all I want to focus on.

And sometimes a book gets in my head because the ideas, the concepts, the entire underlying premise are so entirely bizarre that, as I try to wrap my head around them, they seem to seep into my subconscious.  I finished Jasper Fforde’s Lost in a Good Book a few days ago, but it’s still lingering in my thoughts.

Fforde’s main character is a woman named Thursday Next.  She is introduced in The Eyre Affair, the first of Fforde’s incredibly distinctive series of novels.  In The Eyre Affair, Fforde establishes this sort of alternative/parallel world.  The novels take place in Britain in the 1980s, but this Britain has been fighting the Crimean War for decades, is almost entirely run by a questionable corporation called Goliath, and is policed by the officers of Spec Ops.  Thursday Next is a member of one of the lower ranks of Spec Ops as a Literatec — she solves literature-related crimes, including forgeries and stolen manuscripts, and then goes home to her re-engineered pet dodo.  Oh, and her uncle has invented the Prose Portal, a machine that allows people to enter into books.  And the primary suspect in a string of literary crimes cannot be caught on film.  And Thursday’s father only appears sproadically, in between his illegal time traveling.  And of course, there’s something to do with this Eyre character.

Lost in a Good Book is only more complicated, involving neanderthals,  a lost Shakespearean play, the end of the world, and Miss Haversham of Great Expectations.  The plot revolves around Thursday’s developing ability to bookjump — or enter into a book to interact with the characters — and her effort to save the world from ending, the imminence of which her time traveling father has warned her.  There are pieces of the plot that I don’t think I ever fully comprehended, but the parts I did understand were intriguing enough to keep me reading.  And the concept of bookjumping grabbed me so strongly that I had a dream about teaching my dog to do it.  (I don’t think it was a successful endeavor, even in the dream.)

So while the Thursday Next books may be confusing at times, any book that shows up in my dreams clearly has me in its grips.  The astounding world Fforde has created, the endless literary references, and the mind-boggling concept of merging the fictional world with reality (or, at least, Thursday’s reality) are compelling enough for me to put the next Next novel on my to-read list.


~ by Molly on January 14, 2009.

2 Responses to “the mind games of thursday next”

  1. Your review has convinced me to give the Thursday next books another try, I’ll let you know how it goes. Did “Lost in a Good Book” inspire you to reread “Great Expectations”?

    • I had no idea of the connection between the two, but I had actually just finished Great Expectations when I started Lost in a Good Book. A happy coincidence, I guess, because Lost would have been even harder to follow if I hadn’t understood Miss Haversham’s background.

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