Thursday is a literary detective in a fictional England, where a seemingly unending Crimean War continues and books are debated as hotly as politics. As the battles rage on, a sinister murderer/thief/former professor/doer of naughty deeds named Acheron Hades has stolen the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit. This may not seem like the most heinous crime imaginable, but Thursday's uncle Mycroft has created a device named the Prose Portal, one which enables a person to walk into any novel or work of fiction. By stealing the original manuscript and kidnapping Mycroft, Hades now has the potential to permanently alter the course of the action in the book and that in all of its subsequent copies. There is a TON of plot in this book and I don't want to give too much away, but eventually the original copy of Jane Eyre and its inhabitants are in grave danger and its up to Thursday to save Charlotte Brontë's quintessential novel.
Fforde has a wonderful grasp of his heroine and manages to keep the narrative flowly quickly. Too quickly at times, the one word that keeps popping in my head when trying to describe this book is "manic." But it's beyond fun to see how he interweaves the mystery of the missing manuscript with his own version of Jane and Rochester. It must be a daunting task to write two of the most well-known fictional characters into your own story, but Fforde's obvious love of literature and his quirky sense of humor make the retelling feel seamless. And Thursday is pretty fascinating, a well-layered and headstrong woman in a book comprised mainly of headstrong men. It's interesting to see the differing opportunities afforded to both Thursday and Jane Eyre. Thursday emulates Jane in certain ways: her stubborness, her intelligence, her straightforward way of dealing with others. And yet Jane has so many limitations due to her class and the century in which she lives, it's almost as if Thursday is a near reincarnation of her.