Thursday Next 7: The Woman Who Died A Lot — Jasper Fforde

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Thursday Next 7: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

This is my first write-up of a book, so I’m still trying to work out what’s going to work, and what’s not. Try not to judge me too harshly.

Brief author notes: Jasper Fforde is a living British author, quite prolific (twelve full-length novels in as many years, with at least another four in various planning stages), who writes alternate history, comic fantasy, surrealist humour fiction. He is currently working on books in four series: the Thursday Next novels, the Nursery Crime Division novels, the Shades of Grey novels, and the Dragonslayer trilogy. And yes, I’ve read all of them.

As The Woman Who Died A Lot is the seventh in the Thursday Next series, it’s bringing a reasonable amount of previous story along. Thursday Next first appeared in The Eyre Affair (via Amazon) in her mid-30s in the mid-1980s. It is twenty years later, and the superhero Thursday who could jump easily between the real world and the BookWorld (where literature is reality) where she worked for Jurisfiction, the policing agency within fiction, is long-gone. Instead, Thursday, with husband Landen Park-Laine, super-genius teenage daughter Tuesday, and moody, formerly-head-of-the-Chronoguard-but-no-longer-due-to-time-travel-never-having-been-invented son Friday, is recuperating from an debilitating injury outside of Swindon. Through political manuvering, she is made head of the Fatsos All You Can Eat Drinks Not Included Wessex Library Service (I did mention this was surreal, right?), which she is required to juggle the needs of the preservation of the world’s literary history and the desires of the Special Library Service, who wish to perform dawn raids in cases of overdue library books. Swindon is due to be smote by God at the end of the week (he has decided to take a more hands-on role with Earth, to the effect that smitings are now a regular occurence).

Good grief, I’m exhausted just trying to explain the setup. Happily, Fforde does a far better job than I am doing. The book takes place over a week, and is set solely within the real world, rather than the BookWorld. There are heavy lashing of punning, the ridiculous, and some prodding at our society.

…so I took a seat at the counter and ordered a mocha and a marmalade on white from a very intense waitress who had clearly been thoroughly indoctrinated by the hyper-efficient Yo! Toast training.
‘Butter or margarine?’ she demanded.
‘Butter.’
‘Thin or thick cut?’
‘Thick.’
‘Orange or lime?’
‘Orange.’
‘Right,’ she said, and hurried off.

My toast arrived and I took a bite. It was excellent. Perfectly toasted, a hint of al dente about the crust, and a tangy blast of marmalade on an aftertaste of melted butter. It wasn’t difficult to see why toast had become the faddy buzz food of the noughties, with TV chefs falling over themselves to write entire books dripping with pretentious toast recipes – and a legion of critics who claimed that food chains like Yo! Toast were paying their staff too much, and criticised the lack of unsaturated fat and salt on the menu.

No more attempting to tell you what the book is about, more on telling whether I liked it. I did like it. (That didn’t take as long as I expected it to.) Fforde writes well, the imagery is good, the style is inventive, his use of the actual text as the joke (less so in this one than previous books–for example, a long unattributed dialogue which ends with a query from the characters as to which of them is speaking), and he is not afraid to let the characters progress. Subplots from previous books are wrapped up and dispensed with. Change is allowed to occur: characters die, politics within the universe of the novel change, new technologies develop. The writing and the setting are not stale.

Whilst it would be terribly helpful to have read the earlier novels in the series to appreciate some of the more subtle jokes, it’s not mandatory, and just jumping in with the seventh book would do no harm at all.

The obligatory Amazon link:

2 thoughts on “Thursday Next 7: The Woman Who Died A Lot — Jasper Fforde

  1. Pingback: Thursday Next 5: First Among Sequels — Jasper Fforde | Book-type Musings

  2. Pingback: Thursday Next 1: The Jane Eyre Affair — Jasper Fforde | Book-type Musings

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