"Something Rotten" by Jasper Fforde

I finished the fourth and last of Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" series a couple of nights ago, a series based on a madcap melding of classic British literature with the police procedural and mystery genres. At first I found these books madly witty and gripping reads, but this last one was actually a bit tedious (I am doing my best not to make a nasty, reviewerly pun on the title). When Thursday, the overburdened heroine who always seems to triumph through a masterpiece of luck rather than skill, takes on impossible task after impossible task* I merely found myself thinking "Sigh. Are there really enough hours in the day for her to accomplish all this and pick up the baby from the sitter?" And it seems to me to be a bad sign when the reader is thinking about the protagonist's planner/diary when she is supposed to be enthralled by the plot.

Mostly I just miss the literary wit of the previous volumes in the series, a few of which took place at least in part in the world of literature. Somehow, Fforde's experiments with averting fate seemed more complex when fate was literally textual, and what was at stake was, for instance, preserving the denouement of Jane Eyre we all know, love, and find endlessly troubling. Something Rotten returns to the "real world" of Fforde's satirically alternative England (where the established church is that of the Global Standard Deity, or "Gsd," and there is a demilitarized zone separating England from Wales) in order to weave together several series-long plot-lines, but there just seems to be too much to do, without much personality to drive it along. Alas!

Something Rotten
Jasper Fforde
Finished May 17, 2007 in Washington, DC

*In this book, Thursday is trying to un-eradicate her husband, whose birth has been wiped out by unscrupulous time travelers; save Hamlet from being colonized by The Merry Wives of Windsor; smuggle Danish literature out of England into the Socialist Republic of Wales before it is burned by the scapegoat-hungry government of Prime Minister Yorick Kaine, while convincing her superiors at her government job that she is vigorously hunting for seditiously Danish books; prevent Kaine from declaring despotic rule over the country by (don't ask me to explain the causality of this) ensuring that her hometown team wins the croquet tournament; raise young Friday, her son, who will only speak in Lorem Ipsum (the faux Latin that graphic designers and book layers-out use as dummy text); and avoid being assassinated by the spouse of a close friend. Believe me when I tell you that, as spoilerish as the above may seem, it really only describes the beginnings of each of these plot-lines.

[Addendum, May 20, 2007: I just remembered that this was one of the works for both my Once Upon a Time Challenge and my Chunkster Challenge. I am about a month behind on the Chunkster, and am not sure what my last two books for the challenge will be. Perhaps David Copperfield will be one. As for the Once upon a Time Challenge, which ends about a week before the Chunkster, I am equally behind, having finished a mere two of my five books. But I will say this for myself - I have begun the very dry Morphology of the Folktale and have every intention of finishing it. I am nothing if not optimistic in my intentions. My Down Under Challenge is the only one of my massive reading goals that is proceeding according to ambition; my 52 plays and New York Times Notable Book Challenges are both sadly neglected. I blame never being at home for more than a week and a half at a time. Curse you, compulsive travel!]

One Response so far.

  1. kookie says:

    I've finished all of this series, except this one. In truth I found 'The Well of Lost Plots' a little tedious. Maybe Fforde was just getting anxious to move on to greener pastures. I haven't read any of the Jack Spratt books yet, but I'm planning to.

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