In an alternate universe where England and Russia are at war and time-travel is routine, Thursday Next is a literary detective who can enter books to find criminals.
This is the first volume in the Thursday Next series and I found it quite promising.
In the alternate England Fforde has created literary debates (such as the one regarding the author/s of Shakespeare's plays) are taken seriously by virtually everybody, and studies in literature open doors to great careers. How could I not love such a premise?
One critic compared Fforde's sense of humor to the Monty Python. I think this is spot-on as they share hysterical and nonsensical qualities.
It is true that the characters in this novel are not particularly deep or complex, but for once it did not bother me as their borderline shallowness somehow underlined the craziness of the author's vision.
The highlight of the novel, as expected, is when Thursday Next literally enters a novel (in this case Jane Eyre) and interacts with the characters. I wanted more of these interactions with literary characters, and I assume/hope there will be more of those in the following titles.
However, while I realize the reader's confusion over being thrown into an alternate universe where everything is both familiar and unfamiliar was an effect the writer desired, I wish that this new world had been more properly introduced from the beginning, as I regularly found myself wondering what was going. Again, I hope I'll feel more at ease with the author's style and vision when I read the sequel.
If the Eyre Affair is the introduction to a series that keeps improving, then I'm glad I started it.