Firstly I would say that I can't recommend Jasper Fforde highly enough. He is one of the few authors that I pre-order on Amazon without needing to know anything about the novel other than he's written it. I would highly recommend the entirety of this series as well as the first book in his newest series, Shades of Grey, which was my favourite book of 2010.
So you have been warned – I am a huge fan of Fforde and any reviewer who denies that a longstanding affection for a series of books will affect their judgment is lying. Nonetheless, here’s what I think.
One of Our Thursdays is Missing is the sixth book in Fforde's Thursday Next series. The series is really unlike anything else I've read - you could perhaps compare him to Terry Pratchett, they share a quirky sense of humour and ability to create huge, fantastical alternate worlds. We first meet Thursday in The Eyre Affair where she rescues Jane Eyre from a kidnapper and by doing so changes the entire plot of the novel (to what we know now).Through the series, Thursday comes to realise that the BookWorld is a huge place with its own politics and rules and she eventually becomes a Jurisfiction literary detective, tasked with policing the BookWorld.
It’s difficult to describe the genius of Fforde’s creation, the BookWorld is complex and clever and the novels are packed with literary references and jokes. The wider read you are, the more of these little jokes you will appreciate but you can enjoy the novels on a surface value whatever you read. Characters from a whole host of literature make appearances and Miss Havisham takes a starring role in the middle few novels. The basic idea is that whenever a reader in the ‘Outlands’ reads a book, the book in the BookWorld springs into action with the characters acting out the plot which is then transferred to our imagination. It is worth reading the books just to enjoy the details of the BookWorld.
One of Our Thursdays is Missing differs from the rest of the series in that it is narrated by the written Thursday Next, the fictional person who lives in the BookWorld enacting the Thursday Next series when it is read. The BookWorld is in a state of flux with Racy Novel threatening war on Women’s Fiction and Dogma. The real Thursday is due to be a crucial part in the peace talks but the written Thursday becomes suspicious that something underhand has happened and sets out to investigate.
The plot is, as always with Fforde, exciting and tightly written. I was desperate to find out what was going on and the final chapters of the book ratchet up the tension well. I was concerned about how the novel would work being from the perspective of the written Thursday but it provided a new outlook to the series and meant that Fforde could explore a fresh angle on the BookWorld.
I would recommend starting this series at the beginning in order to appreciate this fully. The only thing that stopped this book being superb was that as it is the sixth book, the premise is familiar now so it lacks some of the amazement of the creativity you get when you start and I feel reached its peak in the third book, The Well of Lost Plots. Having said that there are lots of new touches as the BookWorld is ‘remade’ at the start of the novel, there are also a few new constructs which produced moments that made me laugh out loud (one at the expense of Daniel Radcliffe.) I’m not really one for puns but Fforde’s work is full of them and they normally make me laugh, against my better judgement. “Nobody move… I think we’ve just driven into a mimefield.”
Fforde has written a worthy addition to the series which is creative, funny and exciting. I compared him to Pratchett earlier: I personally am not a Pratchett fan, I’ve read several and always struggle to get to the end of them – I find his style and humour grating but he has legions of fans. I imagine that Fforde is the same – if you enjoy him, as I do, you will probably love this as well but it might not be everyones cup of tea.