The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair is the first novel written by Jasper Fforde. Published in 2001, it is the story of literary detective Thursday Next's pursuit of a master criminal through an alternative 1985 and through the pages of Charlotte BrontŰ's Jane Eyre.

"Don't ask. Just read it..."

Plot Summary

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In this parallel world, England and Imperial Russia have fought the Crimean War for more than a century; England itself is a police state run by the Goliath Corporation (a powerful weapon-producing company with questionable morals); and literary questions (especially the question of Shakespearean authorship) are debated in the streets. Maintaining the integrity of English literary heritage is important enough for a special branch of the police, SpecOps-27, to be devoted to it.

Single, thirty-something, Crimean War veteran and literary detective Thursday Next lives in London with her pet dodo, Pickwick. As the story starts she is temporarily promoted to SpecOps-5 to help them apprehend the third most wanted criminal in the world, Acheron Hades (a hell of a guy). Using her prior knowledge of Hades, she comes close to capturing him, but is badly injured in the attempt. While recuperating, she re-reads Jane Eyre, her childhood favorite despite its unhappy ending, and she has a strange flashback in which she meets the romantic lead from the novel, Edward Rochester.

Next is sent back to the Litera-Tecs and, seeking to avoid further trouble, accepts an apparently unexciting transfer to the SpecOps office in her old home town of Swindon. Back at home, she catches up with her mother Wednesday, her Uncle Mycroft (the name of Sherlock Holmes' clever brother), and her Aunt Polly. Mycroft is an inventor of literary technology. He has created bookworms that eat the words of books, translating carbon-paper (you write something in English, and the copy is in any other language you wish --- but French doesn't work), and most importantly, the Prose Portal. This device allows people to step into the pages of any work of literature. Next also renews an acquaintance with her former fiancÚ Landen Parke-Laine (a reference to the British version of the board game Monopoly).

Next learns that Hades has kidnapped Mycroft, Polly, and the Prose Portal in order to blackmail the literary world by changing their favorite novels. Using the Portal, Hades removes a minor character from the text of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit; when his demands are not met, he kills him -- altering the text of every copy of the novel.

Next and a loathsome Goliath Corporation operative named Jack Schitt (what does he know?) trace Hades to the Socialist Republic of Wales. They rescue Mycroft and the Prose Portal, but find that Polly has disappeared, and Hades has gone into the original text of Jane Eyre. Next decides to pursue Hades into the text, and after much trouble, she succeeds in catching him and finishing him off. In the process however she makes Rochester fall in love with Jane, and Hades sets fire to the house. In the aftermath Rochester and Jane get married. Accidentally, Next has changed the ending of the book (to the ending that we know and love in our world).

Returning to her own world, Next uses the Prose Portal to release her Aunt Polly from a Wordsworth poem and to imprison Jack Schitt in the text of Poe's "The Raven". Next and Parke-Laine are reconciled and get married.

At the wedding, Thursday's father turns up. He is a renegade agent from SpecOps-12, the ChronoGuard (see Chronology protection conjecture). He temporarily stops time in order to dispense some fatherly advice to his daughter. The novel ends with Next facing an uncertain future at work: public reaction to the "new" ending for Jane Eyre is positive, but she has broken one of the cardinal Litera-Tec rules by changing the text.

The story continues in Lost In A Good Book.

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