Needless to say, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, as well as his writing and style techniques, have been criticized on numerous occasions by readers around the world, both positively and negatively. The majority are in the belief that Fforde’s novels are “tailor made for a passionate cult following (Holcombe)” and thought to be prominently featured in the annals of tenacious readers. In other words, those who dare to sift through the insanity that makes the Ffordian alternate reality. One of the secrets of Fforde’s success is thought to be the fact that he writes with such vivacity and joy that it’s contagious to the reader. This is a statement that I agree with whole-heartedly; when I was reading The Eyre Affair, I could hardly bear to put the book down at night and go to sleep. It was all that I could do to keep from staying up and continuing to turn the pages of this instant classic, but classic in the most modern and contemporary ideal. Fforde’s literary pieces of work combine with his website to create the idea that there indeed exists a corner of the universe that is “forever Ffordian (Holcombe).” There is a definite consensus amongst readers that all of his books involve Fforde’s idea of a screwed reality, which can be twisted to be thought of as a social commentary of the time or simply a case of imagination running a little bit wild. This somewhat random sense of reality ties in perfectly with the character of Thursday Next, who Fforde has created. Thursday is considered to have become one of the most memorable characters in contemporary writing (Holcombe), as she displays a feisty and straight-forward nature that is completely believable when immersed in the Ffordian alter-reality.
Yet another way that Fforde is able to throw the reader off balance is by introducing new and completely ridiculous ideas, which make no sense unless understood in the context. The emphasis and reliance that is placed on literary puns only adds to the reader’s enjoyment, especially when the reader is well-read, as more of the references in the form of puns from classic works of literature will be available to be understood. These references add to the realistic and credible bounds of the Ffordian imaginary universe that is created. However, not all of Fforde’s ideas work; some of the jokes don’t make sense or don’t work in the context, especially when there is strong and intense dialogue (Holcombe).
The cinematic style that Fforde uses liberally within his novels may not work for all readers, but I agree with the criticism that I have read, which believe that it does make sense, especially considering the fact that Fforde worked in the film industry before becoming a writer. I consider Fforde to be absolutely brilliant, because he is able to create a ridiculous alternate reality that includes a dramatic spoof on a classic novel – Jane Eyre – and yet at no point was I ever invoked to want to throw the book down in frustration. Fforde’s style may be more appreciated by the younger, more modern demographic as an audience, because the random nature of the plot that twists and turns with every page is much more amusing to them. Holcombe (author of a piece of literary criticism on Fforde) believes that Fforde can be described as a lot of things – mischievous, hectic, manic, charming, eccentric, and quirky – but none of them really do him justice at all, and that “if Fforde carries on like this he has every chance of entering the English language as an adjective (Holcombe).”
The second piece of literary criticism that I read was more in the form of a book review for The Eyre Affair, but still contained pieces of literary critique for Fforde’s style and writing. The Eyre Affair is considered to dance on a fine line between science-fiction, a crime thriller, and an intertextual whimsy, all of which combine to create a novel that makes absolutely no sense at all while simultaneously making perfect sense to the reader. Fforde’s first published novel has been called “outrageous”, and described as being able to “put you on the wrong footing even on its dedication page (Kaveney).” The last part of the aforementioned quote was in reference to the fact that the dedication is made out to someone fighting in the Crimean War, which is subsequently in reference to the fact that in The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next is a veteran of the Crimean War that has been going on for over one hundred years.
Fforde is described by many literary critics and readers as being endlessly inventive (Kaveney), which neatly sums up my view on this novel. As a reader coming in with no outside information about Fforde’s style of writing other than knowing that he is a little bit crazy and creates a parallel universe for his characters, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Eyre Affair. For me, Kaveney’s description of Fforde as being endlessly inventive makes the most sense of anything that I have read or thought about this book. Even when I didn’t think that Fforde could come up with anything more outrageous than the event I just finished reading about, I would turn the page and there would be yet another crazy adventure facing Thursday Next. I found myself constantly thinking that there is no way any other author could come even close to being described as “inventive” or “original” after reading a novel by Jasper Fforde, which fits in perfectly to the description of Fforde as “endlessly inventive”.
As I read The Eyre Affair, I found myself constantly looking back at a prior page to try to piece through what just happened. This experience has obviously been felt by many other readers and critics, as my sentiments are echoed in Kaveney’s critical review. Fforde effectively keeps readers on their toes, repeatedly doing double-takes as events take place across the pages of The Eyre Affair. These experiences are described as being “minor certainties of history, literature, and cuisine go[ing] soggy in the corner of our eye (Kaveney).” Essentially, Keveney is saying that what readers thought they knew about history and literature is utterly defied by the events of Fforde’s novels, beginning with The Eyre Affair.