Writer: Jasper Fforde
Release Date: March 8, 2011
Reading one of Jasper Fforde’s BookWorld novels is like watching a circus acrobat who folds himself in half while climbing a tightrope while spinning ten plates with his hands and juggling bowling pins with his feet. Unless you’ve got physicist-level math skills – not that these intricate, literate, hilarious tales have anything to do with math – it’s best to sit back and be awed and delighted; trying to figure out how it’s done will only make you insane.
Thursday Next, as introduced in Fforde’s first BookWorld novel THE EYRE AFFAIR, lives in a world somewhat but not completely like ours. (For one thing, there’s an issue with cheese smuggling along the England/Wales border, a detail which crops up from book to book.) Thursday is an agent of Jurisfiction, a secret branch of the government that makes sure books – that is, the ones we read – maintain their order and don’t, say, have Mr. Rochester leaving JANE EYRE to take up residence in some other fiction entirely. Thursday has the talent of actually entering the BookWorld, where the characters in books are sort of like actors in plays, doing their roles while someone is reading them in the OutWorld, but otherwise having different lives and personalities.
If this isn’t complicated enough, we know that Thursday has had books written about her adventures (though leaving the BookWorld out – she’s famous for plenty of other exploits as well). The original written Thursday turned out to be a bit too femme fatale for both the real Thursday and the public safety. The new written Thursday is a tamer type entirely – but she turns out to be our narrator in ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING. It seems the real Thursday Next has vanished from the real world and the written Thursday is being pressured to impersonate her at some BookWorld peace talks while simultaneously trying to investigate the unmaking of an unpublished book and break in an understudy who wants to date a goblin from the fantasy book down the road. Then it’s suggested to the written Thursday that she may be the real Thursday who has been brainwashed into thinking she’s the written Thursday …
And that doesn’t begin to cover the complications of the story or the universe. Readers of the Thursday Next series should remember that the written books in Thursday’s world are not the written books we’re reading (for one thing, we may never know the full impact of THE GREAT SAMUEL PEPYS FIASCO). What’s amazing is how accessible Fforde makes everything, partly courtesy of Thursday’s ever-companionable voice, with what feels like effortlessly humorous observations and method of explaining things, and partly because there’s some new bit of creativity lurking around every paragraph.
Nothing is too big or too small to escape Fforde’s field of satire, so references to Daniel Radcliffe pop up not far from a subplot concerning the Lady of Shalott, while written Thursday’s longing for real Thursday’s husband Landen (who isn’t in the BookWorld Thursday’s life) gives her more dimension than she may believe she possesses. There are puzzles for the reader, mysteries, puns, whole subplots about character back stories as a concept, and much more.
Fforde’s fiction is all about how fiction is made, but rather than being deconstructionist, it’s celebratory. ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING, like its predecessors, is for people who love books and feel that, on some level, they have an inner life. Here’s a whole fantasy realm that agrees with and eloquently elaborates on that notion, with boundless imagination and warmth.