I’ve read every one of Jasper Fforde’s books, although to my surprise in looking back over my old reviews I note that the previous book in the Thursday Next series, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, somehow got read but not reviewed here on Compulsive Overreader. Really, what I say about one book in the series could pretty much be said about any of them — endlessly witty, inventive, quirky books with plot twists that have to be read to be believed. In the last book, Thursday’s adventures were mainly in the Book World, but in this novel she’s back in the so-called real world, taking over as head of Swindon’s libraries (libraries, and anything book-related, are far more important in the alternate universe of these books than in ours, so librarians come armed and with permission to use lethal force, if necessary, to retrieve overdue books). Thursday’s also dealing with family problems — her genius teenage daughter Tuesday showed a classmate her breasts for five pounds, her son Friday just had his entire future revoked, and her daughter Jenny still doesn’t really exist…or does she? Amid work and home pressures, Thursday has to help avert a smiting from an angry deity who’s promised to smite Swindon at the end of the week. Oh, and somebody’s making Thursday clones so realistic that occasionally the real Thursday wakes up inside one and doesn’t realize at first that she’s a clone.
It’s complicated. But isn’t it always?
Something new with this installment: it’s poignant at times, and surprisingly realistic. I know: “realistic” is not the first word you think of when you think of a series of books set in an alternate version of our world where (some) people are able to jump back and forth into the plots of novels. What’s realistic is that action hero Thursday is now in her mid-fifties and has barely survived her injuries from the last novel. Unlike a cartoon character (or her own clone) she doesn’t bounce back unscathed: she has to deal with permanent disability, physiotherapy, and no longer being young and strong enough to take down the evil emissaries of the Goliath Corporation at a single bound. Possibly the most unbelievable character in contemporary fiction, Thursday Next has become surprisingly real as her story has unfolded.