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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/11/2004 Archived Entry: "Book review: "Something Rotten""

Something Rotten
Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Viking Books
ISBN: 0670033596

Review by Jessica Groper

As a bookworm, I've often wished that there were more appreciation of good literature in mainstream society. When I make a Jane Austen inspired joke, it saddens me that so few people realize how freaking funny I am. If you too are nostalgic for a world in which authors are as well known as directors and characters replace actors in our gossip columns, then let me introduce you to Jasper Fforde and his "Thursday Next" series. In this series of books, militant supporters of the theory that Francis Bacon wrote all of Shakespeare's plays go door to door with pamphlets and intimidation tactics. Audiences at productions of Hamlet scream out the lines and throw things la "Rocky Horror." The Crimean War has never ended, time travel is both possible and policed, and some lucky people are able to leave the world of reality and enter the world of fiction, literally getting lost in a good book. The heroine of these novels is Thursday Next, a literary detective in England who hunts down Shakespeare forgeries and works to preserve the purity of the great works of literature. By chance she ends up entering the world of fiction and interacting with literary characters who, when they aren't actively participating in their books, have an entire government and society. Thursday encounters Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, is apprenticed to Miss. Havisham from Great Expectations, and brings Hamlet into the real world to help him deal with his identity crisis and put an end to his ceaseless squabbling with Ophelia.

Okay, here's where the advertisement starts. The fourth book in this series, Something Rotten, has just been published. As a stand alone novel, this book is excellent. It is witty, entertaining, funny, and will be over far too soon. Any important details from the first three books are carefully provided within the context of the current plot. Any reader can start with Something Rotten and come out having had an enjoyable reading experience. But, may I suggest that since all four "Thursday Next" books are in print that you start from the beginning with The Eyre Affair. By reading all four books you will get four times the hilarity, four times the subtle references to other books and genres, and four times the random comments from the Cat formerly known as Cheshire (borders have been moved in Fforde's England). You will also have the opportunity to witness and admire the way in which Fforde develops his characters (and other author's characters) and how beautifully he manages to introduce plot lines in all the books only to have them suddenly play a huge role in the fourth installment. If you like Austen, Kafka, the Bronte sisters, Poe, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Dickens, science fiction, and even romance novels you will love how they are brought to new life in this series. If you like Terry Pratchett, Tom Robbins, or Douglas Adams you will love the slightly absurdist wacky style that Jasper Fforde uses to create his world. And when you're done, check out his ridiculously busy website: for even more fun.

Replies: 2 comments

Not being a book worm myself,i must say after your review i am curiously inspired of an author i would have passed by.nice work. danielle

Posted by danielle russell @ 08/13/2004 08:16 AM PST

...but does Pickwick ever learn to stand on one foot in return for a marshmallow? Plock plock? Perhaps not the most brilliantly witty character in this series, but I am charmed by the image of a pet who sits on the television and watches the sofa.

Posted by marcia @ 09/03/2004 06:36 PM PST

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