Regular readers of my blog might have noticed that I am a rather large fan of Jasper Fforde and his work. A while ago I reviewed his dystopian novel ‘Shades of Grey’ and I also wrote an article about his recent talk on his latest book launch for ‘The Woman Who Died A Lot’. I think it is therefore safe to say that I already had a fairly high expectation of the seventh instalment of Thursday Next’s adventure, well before it was released.
As a general rule, I tend to try to avoid hype surrounding popular culture. Whether it’s the latest Spiderman film or a certain current bestseller, I find that they rarely live up to expectation. The hype I was subjected to surrounding Fforde’s latest work was, however, entirely self-induced so there was no getting rid of it! But I am pleased to announce that Mr Fforde easily stepped up to the benchmark of his other novels and eagerly surpassed it.
Whilst listening to his talk at his book launch last week, a few things he announced initially set alarm bells ringing in my head. I thought that four plot threads might have been just one too many; Fforde’s dreamt up worlds and scenarios often require concentration and a pinch of salt at the best of times without extra storylines to handle. And I was worried that moving Thursday back away from the Bookworld would detract from the wonderful realm which Fforde has worked so hard to create so beautifully artistically. I thought I would miss the unending literary allusions and cultural references.
I needn’t have worried though. What I got when I opened the cover was probably the most exciting and entertaining instalment of Thursday’s life so far. The concentration of the storylines (all four of them) in and around the family home in Swindon and Thursday and Landen’s two teenage children adds a warm reality to the novel, making all the deranged theories of ‘madeupions’, ‘mnenomorphs’ and smitings that little bit more credible. And Thursday is of course stationed in the next best place to Bookworld; a library.
And yet the tone of credibility which Fforde adds to this novel doesn’t detract from the sense of the ludicrously ridiculous which he establishes in all of his novels. The ideas of synthetic humans designed to have superpowers but to live only for one day and that the exact location of a smiting can be calculated according to precisely how much sin is concentrated in the area are utterly ridiculous and yet utterly ingenious. There are many more treats of this nature embedded throughout ‘The Woman Who Died A Lot’. And these treats are exactly why losing yourself in one of Fforde’s novels is always such a delight! So savour them, ration your reading, otherwise you’ll only want to start over and read the whole thing again, as soon as you’ve read the last word.
I eagerly await Thursday’s return, at some point in the future , in ‘Dark Reading Matter’.