Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Transatlantic flight reading

Sorry for the long gap between posts. The big trip to France took up most of June, if you count all the packing and unpacking and sleeping off the jet lag. On our way to Nice we were delayed in London for 24 hours which was not too bad at all since the airline picked up the tab. We took the red eye across to London so I really didn't do much reading on that leg of the journey; aside from a few trashy romances, I mainly slipped in and out of consciousness until we arrived. Once we arrived in France there was too much to see and do to do more than peak at the books I'd brought along.

On the way back, however, I was in the mood for something funny so I started reading the first book in the Thursday Next series, called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Several years ago I was on a trip somewhere with my family, I think to Costa Rica, and I was going through books like crazy since we were spending a lot of time being driven from once place to another. So my sister let me read a few that she had brought along and one of these was another Thursday Next novel somewhere in the middle of the series. I enjoyed it a lot but this is a series with a lot of complicated plot twists and I admit to being a little lost with some of the references in the book to what had happened previously. I meant to look for the rest of the series when we got home but, typically, I got distracted by some other book and forgot all about it until I re-discovered it, like some vacation-reading holy grail, on a cart being pushed by a very sweet librarian.

It turns out that the New Orleans public library has the complete Thursday Next series on their shelves, which might not seem so miraculous in any other city but down here whenever I type something into the search engine I know that dreaded "damaged in Katrina" is gonna pop up somewhere. So it seemed like divine literary intervention, if you know what I mean, and I made sure to pack that book in my carry on.

It's definitely just as funny as I remembered. It's irreverent, witty and the absolute perfect book for literature lovers. In fact being at least familiar with the great works of literature is a bit of a prerequisite to getting a lot of the humour in Thursday Next's world, which is sort of an alternate-history/fantasy nod to the written word.

In her world, England is republic with a rather totalitarian method of policing its citizens and conducting its affairs abroad. The country has been bailed out of the World Wars by a giant corporation called Goliath, which now almost runs England and controls its media. The other important difference is that literature, especially the classics, are valued deeply and taken very very seriously. Books are bigger than movies or television and authors are revered far more than any celebrity. Enter Thursday Next, literary detective, war veteran and bookworm extraordinaire. She quickly becomes embroiled in trying to catch a villain intent on blackmailing the government by kidnapping literary figures from their books: including Jane Eyre herself. The book blurs the lines between fantasy and reality but never takes itself too seriously (expect many puns). I think the series continues on for at least six more books after the first so I'm looking forward to reading the sequels when I get a chance.

"I'm not mad. I'm just...well, differently moralled, that's all."

"I shouldn't believe anything I say, if I were you-and that includes what I just told you."

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