If you’re gonna call your book review the Bizzaro Book Review you’re pretty much obligated to mention the beautiful insanity that is Jasper Fforde at some point. And really, though I’m talking about his most recent book, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, to some extent this post will touch on his body of work as a whole.
Jasper Fforde makes his mark in fiction by being wholly and unashamedly weird. His flagship series, Thursday Next takes place in an alternate universe where people make their own pet dodos from from DNA kits, cheese is trafficked like a drug, and a woman named Thursday Next is able to travel into a world where books and their characters come to life.
It’s this last plot device that really drives the series out into the realm of the completely insane. Inside the Book World everything operates according to book logic. Scents are rare, (because almost no one ever uses scent in their descriptions), plot points such as ‘Just Then, a Shot Rang Out’ are bought and sold, and everything happens for a reason. Add in an ingenious and unflappable heroine and you’ve got a series that’s light years beyond anything else you might happen to be able to name in terms of sheer weirdness.
And though the weirdness of Jasper Fforde’s creations truly does speak to me, I think that occasionally he lets being weird get in the way of telling a great story. This at least was the case with his previous book Thursday Next: First Among Sequels which dragged on so slowly that I finally had to put it down after plowing through nearly eighty percent of the text.
And when the opening of One of Our Thursdays is Missing featured the complete remaking of Fforde’s iconic Book World for no discernible reason other than to be different I was afraid that this would be more of the same. Luckily this book got itself sorted out pretty quickly, and once the clockwork robot butler showed up, it was smooth sailing from then on.
As to the plot, it centers around the fictional Thursday Next, who is the Book World star of a series of books about the real Thursday Next whose exploits have garnered her some level fame. The fictional Thursday learns early on that the real Thursday has gone missing just before she was supposed to settle a nasty border dispute between the regions of Racy Novel and Women’s Lit.
Since the fictional Thursday looks and acts just like the real Thursday, she’s drawn into the search for the woman that inspired her character. And with the deadline looming and the real Thursday still very much in absence, the fictional Thursday begins to wonder if she might be unknowingly the real Thursday, a prospect that seems all the more tantalizing when she makes a trip out of the Book World and interacts with the real Thursday’s family.
You may need to take a break to scrape your brains off the wall at this point.
Bottom line, this book is wonderful, and in spite of all the weirdness in evidence, Jasper Fforde has really gotten back on track with compelling characters and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end.
If you haven’t heard of the series before, you may want to go back and read some of the previous books first. I recommend starting with Lost in a Good Book since the first book, The Eyre Affair, was written while Fforde was still honing his style and doesn’t represent the strength of the rest of the series.
But really it doesn’t matter. Dig into Jasper Fforde’s bizarre world, and I promise you’ll never look at “normal” books the same way again.