Tag Archives: English literature

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

After reading The Well of Lost Plots, I wasn’t sure what to expect in Something Rotten.  It surprisingly picks up two years after the previous book, with Thursday having given birth to her son, Friday, and returning to the real world.  It gets back to the main story of Thursday’s life, which, I think, is preferable to the fantastical world of unpublished books.  Something Rotten is superior, and I enjoyed it even more than The Well of Lost Plots.

Thursday returns with a guest — Hamlet, who needs some time away from his play.  Accompanied also by her son and dodos, Thursday comes back to stay with her mother.  She also finds Goliath Corporation trying to make itself a religion, a prophesy that states that if the Swindon Mallets, the local croquet team, doesn’t win its game against the Reading Whackers, the world just might end.  Thursday ends up as manager, since Goliath hires away most of the talent from the team.

Thursday takes advantage of Goliath’s religious aims, asking for an apology and the return of her husband, Landen.  They hold to their word, but he flickers in and out for a while, causing some issues with showing up at his home only to find his parents there instead, who don’t remember their son ever becoming an adult.

With all this going on, Thursday is also chasing down the minotaur that escaped from captivity in the previous book and is chasing down Yorrick Kaine, who has come to significant political power and has started a crusade against the Danes and all things Danish.  She is also being chased down by an assassin called the Windowmaker, who has close ties to one of her good friends.  A loaded plate, to say the least.

I think the best thing about this book is the balance between the crises.  I didn’t have as much of a problem following exactly what was going on in Something Rotten.  That might have something to do with the fact that I’ve actually read more of the books and plays mentioned in this volume than the others, but I also think Fforde has created a more polished book.  Friday’s escapades make more sense and the prose flows more easily.

One thing that confused me a bit was the inclusion of illustrations in the book, which seemed more heavy in the front of the book than in the back.  I suspect these might have been a holdover from the hardcover edition, but, seeing as they weren’t in the other books in the series, it made me a little perplexed.  I would have preferred them be left out; I think that, unless it’s a children’s book or a nonfiction book that needs figures, illustrations aren’t really necessary.

Overall, I really enjoyed Something Rotten.  I found it more clever than The Well of Lost Plots, which is a pretty difficult feat, and I was completely engaged in the narrative.  I can’t wait to get into the next book in the series, to find out what next happens to Ms. Thursday Next.

Rating: 4.5/5.

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Filed under 4.5/5, Book review, Favorable, Fiction

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

I have to admit, I’m a little rusty on my Thursday Next.  The last time I read one of the books, it was in 2006, and The Well of Lost Plots was just coming out as a hardcover.  Now, here I am, five years later, and I’m having to do some catching up.  It’s well worth it, though, for the world of Thursday Next is one richly filled with all sorts of literary delights.

We start off pretty close to where Lost in a Good Book leaves off.  Thursday is hiding within the Well of Lost Plots to protect her unborn child, the product of a marriage to a man who never existed.  She finds a place to stay within an unpublished mystery novel, taking the place of one of the secondary characters.  The book is not doing well, and Thursday tries to provide a little help before it gets pulled apart for its words.

Thursday is also being trained, by Miss Havisham, to become a literary enforcement agent.  She goes through some pretty grueling training, which can also be amusing — Miss Havisham leads a group therapy session for the characters from Wuthering Heights, which Thursday tags along to.  We then get to see what happens in between the pages, which, for Wuthering Heights, basically means that everyone spends their time hating Heathcliff.

Here is one of the great things about the Thursday Next series:  it’s for people who love to read.  Not just love to read, but love to read novels.  Not just love to read novels, but love to read those books that are considered great literature.  Fforde takes the characters from big books, like Great Expectations or Jane Eyre, and puts his own take on what their personalities are into his versions of them.  It’s really nice … for those of us who have read the books he’s referencing.

This is, thus, one of the biggest downfalls of Fforde’s books, too — you have to be a complete book nerd to get every little thing he puts in.  Otherwise, the only things you’re going to understand are the puns, and that’s no way to go through a book.  A person’s literary well-being can’t be sustained on puns alone.

Fforde does have a very lovable writing style.  His inner circle of characters are pretty well-rounded, and I enjoy the world he has created where foundering books are in a well far below the library of all fiction created (at least, in English).  I think that many well-exposed readers would really enjoy the Thursday Next series; if one doesn’t, I think The Well of Lost Plots has very limited appeal.  Maybe, though, it’s an incentive to read books that are over ten years old — I know I haven’t read Wuthering Heights, and I think maybe it’s about time I do.

Rating: 4/5.

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Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is one of those books that is a product of its time.  Julia Strachey, the author, was of Virginia Woolf’s time — in fact, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding was published by the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press.   It is put forth today as a “forgotten twentieth-century novel” by the current publishers, and I think that’s a fair assessment.  The book has a limited audience it speaks to, and others are not likely to pick it up.  Despite that, I think that it is a good depiction of British women of a certain class and time and their relationships; it is thus worth reading if only for the insight it gives into the time period.

The book takes place in the home of Dolly Thatcham, a bride-to-be dressing for her wedding.  The house is full, from the visiting relatives and guests to the servants, and her confused mother looks after it all.  Dolly appears to not have anyone who truly understands her other than Joseph Patten, a former lover, who is unhappily in attendance for the wedding between his still-beloved Dolly and Owen Bigham.  Joseph and Dolly play the game of keeping up appearances, and can even almost do it.

One delightful point of both realism and symbolism was when Dolly, drunk and uncoordinated, manages to spill ink on the front of her wedding dress.  The only one there to help is Joseph, who does — he gets her a lace scarf to drape and pin over the stain.  In it I find both the sign that Dolly’s marriage to Owen will never be a clean start, and also an omen of what is to come from Joseph after the wedding.

I suppose Cheerful Weather for the Wedding could be, and probably is, classified as domestic fiction — after all, the book takes place solely in one house over the events of a part of a day.  In this way, it carries on in the tradition of Jane Austen, taking a careful look at the manners and mores of the time and skewering them.  Unlike Austen, however, Strachey strives to move beyond the manners into a more realistic life depiction.  While Austen would have striven for the characters to cover scandal and to provide for them a mostly happy ending, in this book no one ends up in an enviable position.  In this way Strachey has both honored Austen in her genre choice, while also subverting its conventions and providing it with a more realistic feel.

Overall, I found the story to be a solid one, with some really interesting parts.  It’s not my favorite genre, but it was an enjoyable read.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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Filed under 3.5/5, Book review, Fiction, Mixed