Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair

My partner introduced me to this book shortly after he moved in. I spotted the brightly coloured tome sitting on the shelf and was drawn by the title.

“Just read it,” he said. “You’ll love it!”

At any given time, there’s at least two dozen books on my Must Read List, so I’m staggered I’ve managed to read this one so soon.

The story takes places in a hilarious dystopian future with some echoes of Orwell’s 1984. The heroine, one Thursday Next, works for Literatec. They are one of the many branches of the police, who seem to govern almost every aspect of society. Among the ‘crimes’ she investigates are missing characters from well-known novels, in particular, the title character from Jane Eyre.

Those familiar with the story will remember Charlotte Bronte’s famous novel is written entirely in the first person. Upon Jane’s kidnap from the story, therefore, the pages of every copy of the book in existence become blank which causes a public outcry.

What follows is a romp through this strange reality, interspersed with periods of time inside the action of the book. Indeed, one of the best scenes takes place at Thornfield Hall, Edward Rochester’s English country residence, during the fire which kills his first wife, Bertha.

It’s an incredibly clever story and the first in a series, so I guess I shall be looking for the next one shortly…

Peter Berresford Ellis

Another visit to the local library brought a whole series of books to my attention a year or so ago.

The author writes his Sister Fidelma series as Peter Tremayne and he comes from Coventry in Warwickshire. His mother was of an old Saxon family in Sussex; his father hailed from County Cork in Ireland.

The two main characters in the Sister Fidelma mysteries are the protagonist, Sister Fidelma herself and her partner, Brother Eadulf. They mirror his own family very nicely.

Fidelma is a Celtic nun born in what was the old kingdom of Munster around the seventh century AD. She is also a qualified dalaigh, an advocate of the ancient law courts in Ireland, so she can assert legal authority over the people she meets where necessary. She often does, too, to great effect.

Brother Eadulf, her partner and eventually husband, is a Saxon monk. He often provides key advice to Fidelma as she solves each mystery and saves her life on more than one occasion. They make a wonderful partnership, both personally and professionally.

The author weaves huge elements of history into the novels, often about the role of nuns in the Church at that period of time in history. In Ireland they followed their own interpretation of Catholic teaching and it was not uncommon for members of the clergy to be married and have their own families, as Fidelma and Eadulf eventually do.

I adore these type of historical stories, especially when they’re well researched. Highly recommended.

Christian Cameron

I came across Mr Cameron’s work in my local library; the series I became interested in starts with a novel called Tyrant.

It takes place during the time of Alexander the Great and among the peoples he was busy conquering.

The central character, Kineas, is one of Alexander’s most highly regarded Generals. However, when he returns to his home of Athens, he finds the veterans of these wars are being sent into exile. He becomes a mercenary, and along with his trusted band of soldiers, becomes embroiled in a tactical battle for survival, in the process finding himself an enemy of Alexander.

I really couldn’t put this one down, and I can say the same for the second and third in the series. The fourth and fifth are very high on my To Read list.

The research Mr Cameron puts into his work is certainly above and beyond the call of duty, as it were. He is a lifelong reenactor, both of the ancient and medieval worlds. Fascinating.

Virginia Woolf – A Room of One’s Own

“…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, first published 1929.

However, A Room of One’s Own isn’t a work of fiction; it’s more of an essay. It was written based on a series of lectures she gave to ladies colleges in Cambridge University.

It also has more than a touch of feminism about it. However, it’s important to consider the context in which it was written.

Woolf’s father believed that only the boys of the family should be formally educated so in fact, when delivering these lectures, Woolf would have been speaking to ladies with far greater opportunities than she herself had.

On reading the piece, however, you become aware of how she advises these young ladies that it was very much still a patriarchal society, and if they wanted to become writers, they would do well to ensure their own financial security.

An interesting read, certainly, I’m not so much a Woolf fan generally, but I did find this engaging.

T. S. Learner

I have recently finished reading the second novel by thriller writer T. S Learner called The Map. As in her first, Sphinx, it’s a hair-raising journey of endurance and personal development for the central character and the historical elements of the story are wonderfully well-researched. I discovered exactly how well-researched when I visited her website http://www.tslearner.co.uk/.

She travels all over the world to learn about ethnic cultures and glean information which she can weave into her stories. She is currently working on a new novel (working title Dynasty) which is set in Zurich and involves the Swiss Roma community. So, off she went to Switzerland to meet some members of the  Roma, as well as a German-Swiss watch designer and a university lecturer. Sounds like a great novel. I can’t wait until it’s published.

I wonder how much travelling I’ll be able to do during the course of writing?