Tuesday, 4 February 2003

Jasper Fforde: Lost in a Good Book (2002)

Edition: New English Library, 2002
Review number: 1142

The second of Fforde's manic Thursday Next stories easily passes the first test of the comedy sequel: it is still funny when read almost immediately after The Eyre Affair. It starts with Next reluctantly allowing herself to be forced into taking part in public relations events; her work documented in The Eyre Affair has made her something of a celebrity, and the Big Brother style Special Operations units are determined to milk every last possible drop of good publicity out of this. On top of this, she is soon mixed up in new plots originating with the Goliath Corporation, who want her to bring back their executive Jack Schitt, whom she imprisoned in a copy of Poe's The Raven.

To read The Eyre Affair, an acquaintance with Jane Eyre is vital. There is no single book so important here, but much of the humour is derived from literary references, so the book is funnier the more the reader picks them up. The range of references is quite large, but will probably be familiar enough to anyone reasonably well read in English literature. (It helps, for example, to have some idea what Tristram Shandy is like, even if you haven't read it, or if you have at least seen a film or TV version of Great Expectations.) The analysis of The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies is particularly amusing.

Lost in a Good Book is less of a constant string of jokes than The Eyre Affair; there is nothing in it to match the wonderful Rocky Horror Show style production of Richard III, for example. This may make it less hilarious, but it also becomes more interesting as a novel. (That is, apart from being less self-contained than its predecessor.) The disappearance of her new husband gives Fforde the opportunity to flesh out Thursday's character more fully. It's left me waiting eagerly for The Well of Lost Plots, due out later this year.

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