If you're a Thursday Next fan, the plot of this book will be readily understood. The real Thursday has disappeared, just before she's supposed to be aIf you're a Thursday Next fan, the plot of this book will be readily understood. The real Thursday has disappeared, just before she's supposed to be a key negotiator at a meeting of the Council of Genres that's supposed to prevent Racy Novel and its neighboring genres from going to war. The written Thursday has to come out of her books and try to find her.
Only this is not the sex-and-violence-prone written Thursday from books 1-4 who sold so many copies. She died last book. It's the flowered-dress and Birkenstock Thursday of the (unpublished) fifth book, The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco. She's the person the real Thursday would like to imagine herself to be, an idealized version of herself--which unfortunately means she's not much use in a crisis. To reach a happy ending, the written Thursday has to learn her own strength, while a robot has to learn the meaning of compassion.
Now, that's clear isn't it?
In short, if you haven't read this series yet, don't start here.
Even if you have read the series, be forewarned, you might find the first half of the book a bit boring. That's partly because a) the written Thursday (like Jessica Rabbit) is "just drawn that way"--and partly because b) an important plot point hinges on the meaning of the word "boring."
I fear that another reason is that Fforde at this point in the series has fallen in love with his own bad puns and erudition. There are whole pages that seem like an excuse to display both. Some will love every verbal and conceptual gyration. I was glad I'd read enough English literature to follow them...but out of that literature also comes the expression "too clever by half." This book is the illustration next to the dictionary definition of that phrase....more
Unnecessarily complicated: both the home repair and the murder mystery. And both were told about, not demonstrated, in voices that sounded very much aUnnecessarily complicated: both the home repair and the murder mystery. And both were told about, not demonstrated, in voices that sounded very much alike no matter who was talking. The motive for the murder was unbelievable. All I can say to justify two stars is that some of the turns of phrase were amusing....more
I loved this book from the start. The people in it are not remotely like me: they're people for whom New York is an ethnicity, and (except for the oddI loved this book from the start. The people in it are not remotely like me: they're people for whom New York is an ethnicity, and (except for the oddly named Noelle, who has moved to Israel and become Orthodox), being Jewish is a puzzlement to them. They get together to have a memorial and unveil the tombstone of the only son, a journalist who was killed in Iraq, and they nearly forget to say the kaddish.
But I got involved with them all immediately--the older couple, David and Marilyn, whose son's death has pushed them toward leaving each other; the 39-year-old daughter, Clarissa, who gave up playing the cello and may have to give up her hopes of becoming a mother; the middle daughter, Lily, who has a lawyer's sharp tongue and the best boyfriend of the bunch; Noelle, with her learning disabilities and her sudden passions; Thisbe, the son's widow, an only daughter and a non-Jew who loves this crazy family and fears that to have a future herself, she may have to leave them behind.
The book is beautifully observed and deeply felt. At moments of great sorrow and tenderness, one of the characters comes up with a turn of phrase that's laugh-out-loud funny or break-my-heart wry. I whipped through the book and would love to read it again some day.
My only reservation (and it's odd that a male author is the one who makes me say this) is that the men are nearly not there at all. You don't find out much about David, the paterfamilias, until late in the book, and it's not just that he's an introvert: he's not fully drawn. Clarissa's husband Nathaniel is supposed to be this Nobel-level genius, but she does all the thinking and feeling and he is there to give her someone to answer her back, to move to the next thought. Lily's resterateur boyfriend, Malcolm, is literally not there, at her request, although when he does show up she realizes he should have been there all along. Noelle's husband, Amram ne Arthur, leaves for a long stretch of the book because she's made him angry. He misses his brother-in-law's unveiling, busy being pissed off. I hope Noelle leaves his ass. Even if it means raising four boys on her own, she's practically doing that anyway! So, as I said, Joshua Henkin does not draw any men I'd like to spend time with at all.
The dead brother, Leo, touches me. My own brother Ronald Fischman died by violence at the end of September 2014, and he, too, took risks he shouldn't have, and left us with mixed memories. I do admire the other characters, and the author, for not romanticizing Leo. The book made me cry because I recognized the welter of emotions I have gone through, spread among the various characters. "It's all over," and "waiting to see what comes next," on successive pages: that's life as I know it....more