LA Times review cont.
Although it champions literary masterpieces, "The Eyre Affair" is far from forbiddingly erudite. If you've forgotten the plot of "Jane Eyre:, don't doubt that Next will provide a handy synopsis, and Fforde's literary allusions cease well before the end of the 19th century, thereby omitting any mention of potentially pesky modernist authors. Much of the humour is sophomorphic: f reading about characters named Millon de Floss or Landen Parke-Laine or Victor Analogy makes you wince, then "The Eyre Affair" probably won't amuse you.
In this debut, Fforde would have benefited from a more disciplined style: Many of his sentences have a clumsy, amateurish quality that unintentionally evokes the works of Franklin W Dixon and Carolyn Drew (he had a large ring on his middle finger with a curious and distinctive pattern on it"); malapropisms crop up in others ("I looked over the parapet but I couldn't se anything remiss"). And the flat romantic subplot is obviously only there to satisfy convention.
"The Eyre Affair" is transparently aimed at Hollywood and indeed comes with art direction tips to the special effects crew: Fforde worked for 13 years as a camera technician in the film industry, and it shows. That's hardly damning nowadays, or even unusual, but some of the novel's humour might work better on the screen than it does on the page: Early in the book, for example, in a spoof of the gun toting parson in a Western, Next's life is saved when a copy of "Jane Eyre" in her breast pocket takes a bullet.
Yet it is useful to recall that many of the literary masters who make cameo appearances in "The Eyre Affair" didn't scruple to boil the pot themselves; Poe, Dickens and Chesterton, after all, were the Grishams of their day. Lovers of great literature with a fondness for light genre fiction and a tolerance for whimsy will feel instantly as home with "The Eyre Affair" and find the end of the book, predictable though it may be, drawing nigh all too soon.