sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 21, 2011

into the stacks: one of our thursdays is missing
posted by soe 2:03 am

once upon a time challengeOne of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde

From the jacket: “It’s a time of unrest in the BookWorld. Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?”

My take: Thursday Next — oh, no, not that one; the written one, but a darn good facsimile — has enough on her plate. She’s training a new understudy. She’s trying to avoid the advances of a fellow BookWorld resident who may not turn out to be the nice guy he seems to be. She’s working hard to keep the peace amongst her fellow cast members, who are all upset with her because the previous written Thursday ran a much looser, more fun ship. But while this Thursday was asked by the real Thursday to try to make their story more respectable, it also has meant that the books are duller and, therefore, more at risk of not being read at all — a dangerous fate indeed.

So, you see, the written Thursday already has plenty going on.

She does not need to be pulled into a coverup. She does not need to be caught between Jurisfiction and the Council of Genres. She does not need to be hunted by the Men in Plaid. She does not need to suddenly be in possession of the real Thursday’s Jurisfiction badge. And she definitely does not need to reach the conclusion that something bad has happened to the real Thursday, just as she is about to serve as an emissary to settle a boundary war between Racy Novel, Dogma, and Women’s Fiction with potential implications across a dozen genres.

And, yet, like her namesake, the written Thursday Next does not seem to have a lot of choice about the adventures that fall into her life.

If that was hard to follow, it’s because Jasper Fforde is one of the cleverest writers currently working. This is the sixth book in a series about Thursday Next, a woman living in an alternate version of modern-day London, who also happens to be able to transfer inside of books in the same way you or I might take a trip to Disney World. Jasper Fforde makes your head explode, but in a nice way, and then puts it back together again.

Here, for instance, he explains one of the side effects of the Feedback Loop, the device that allows BookWorld to be fleshed out, as it were, by readers’ own RealWorld experiences that they bring to the books they’re reading:

The Lady of Shalott was of an indeterminate age and might once have been plain before the rigors of artistic interpretation got working on her. This was the annoying side of the Feedback Loop; irrespective of how she had once looked or even wanted to look, she was now a Pre-Raphaelite beauty with long flaxen tresses, flowing white gowns and a silver forehead band. She wasn’t the only one to be physically morphed by reader expectation. Miss Havisham was now elderly whether she liked it or not, and Sherlock Holmes wore a deerstalker and smoked a ridiculously large pipe. The problem wasn’t just confined to the classics. Harry Potter was seriously pissed off that he’d have to spend the rest of his life looking like Daniel Radcliffe.

If you’ve never read a Thursday Next novel, start with The Eyre Affair, which sets the story up properly. If you’re already up to speed, I will note that while I liked this book quite a bit, I would have done well to re-read (or at least flip through) the earlier books before beginning this one, because there were some details I was a little fuzzy on when they were referred to in this novel.

All in all, though, I thought One of Our Thursdays Is Missing did a good job reinvigorating a series that was in danger of straying too far into pun for its own good. I look forward to the next tale in the adventures of Thursday Next — both real and written.

Pages: 362

If you’re a Jasper Fforde fan, you might consider checking out this podcast at Chatting Up a Storm with Claudia Cragg. I haven’t listened yet, but it’s in my queue for the iPod.

This was my second book for this spring’s Once upon a Time Challenge.

Category: books. There is/are 3 Comments.

I bought this book. I’m looking forward to reading it, but I’m also sort of not looking forward to it. Partly it’s because I don’t like BookWorld that much. I know, it seems strange giving how prominent a feature BookWorld has been in the sequels, but I prefer the alternate reality that is Thursday’s RealWorld. Also, the last book was surprisingly good. One expects a significant drop in quality with each sequel, and because that book wasn’t at the anticipated quality level, my epectations are perhaps higher than they ought to be, perhaps high enough that I will be disappointed. Plus, a truly disastrous sequel (even if one pretends later that it doesn’t exist) seems somehow to taint the original. I would hate for that to happen, because “The Eyre Affair” is one of my favorite books. The only other time I can remember fearing a sequel this much was when the final Harry Potter came out.

Comment by Karen 06.23.11 @ 9:42 am

@Karen: Hmmm… I was not as big of a fan of the last book, which is probably why I liked this one so much. I can’t begin to guess how one might feel about this book if you really liked the previous one, but I’m imagining you’ll not be as enthusiastic as I was. I’ll be interested to hear what you thought once you’re done.

Comment by soe 06.24.11 @ 1:38 am

Actually, I don’t remember any of the books as well as I ought. I would go back and reread them (as you suggest) if I had the time. I don’t know that I loved the last one, but I do remember being satisfied with it overall.

Comment by Karen 06.24.11 @ 5:50 am